Are The Lakers And Clippers Rivals? Not According To Jeanie Buss

LA Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images.

What are the requirements of a rival? You could make the case that two teams in the NBA can only be rivals if there is postseason history between the two. The Celts/Lakers is the greatest rivalry in NBA history because of their head to head battles in the Finals. Bulls/Pistons, Bulls/Pacers, But is that the only way two teams can be rivals? I'm not so sure about that.

The reason I ask is because Jeanie Buss went on Joe Buck's podcast and was pretty quick to deny that the Lakers and Clippers are rivals

"You can’t build a rivalry until there is a rivalry," Buss said. "I mean that in terms of we’ve never played them in the playoffs. Whereas with Boston, we can go back and go, ‘Remember when this happened? Remember when that happened?’ All of our playoff experience against Boston, that’s a rivalry because you have a history. We just haven’t had a history with the Clippers in the playoffs.”

This is a tough one because you're talking about one of the most historic franchises in league history......and the Clippers. This is where Lakers bros will look at the Clippers and laugh at the idea that they are rivals, probably stating their 16 championships* compared to the Clippers total of 0 means there's no way they can be rivals. On some level I agree with Buss, that maybe it's a little early to consider this a true rivalry, but lets not confuse that with the idea that the Lakers don't think about the Clippers. You can't tell me they aren't a little more jazzed up to face each other than when the Lakers play someone like the Utah Jazz. 

Add to it that the Clippers have beaten the Lakers in 2 of their 3 meetings this season, Patrick Beverley is a pest and Kawhi is challenging LeBron for his throne atop of the NBA, I feel like these two teams are in the beginning stages of a rivalry. Lakers fans care much more about beating the Clippers than maybe anyone else in the West and perhaps the NBA. For the first time in a long ass time both LA teams are legit title contenders.  

But I also think Jeanie Buss is forgetting history a little bit. From 2013-2019, the Lakers were not better than the Clippers. Entering last season, the Clippers had won the last 6 season series against the Lakers. Granted the Lakers were undergoing a rebuild and they didn't meet in the postseason, but it's not like this battle has always been one sided. You add to it the fact that the Lakers wanted Kawhi and he deliberately told them to go fuck themselves so he could sign with the Clippers, that's all stuff that go into the rivalry pot. 

So no, the Clippers/Lakers aren't the type of rivals you think of when you compare them to some of the great rivalries in NBA history. At least not yet. That's why this postseason is going to be so much fun and why we all want to see these two teams face one another. But Jeanie Buss can't convince me that beating the Clippers in 2020 doesn't mean more to her and her team. Of course it does. I think back to what Joel Embiid said

Well now the Clippers are starting to beat the Lakers and have the star power to match up. There's no way Jeanie Buss would ever admit to this though, but that's all part of the rivalry game.