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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: September 6, 5:53 PM ET
No. 53: Los Angeles Clippers

By Max Klinger
ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 105
Title track: 71
Ownership: 95
Coaching: 107
Players: 34
Fan relations: 54
Affordability: 42
Stadium experience: 55
Bang for the buck: 51

After 28 years in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Clippers have officially crawled out from under the expansive shadow of the Lakers. In fact, despite Clip fans' understandable frustration at always being mentioned in the same breath as the Lakers, the crosstown rivals provide a critical case study in franchise efficacy. Take the product on the court: They play in the same arena, had nearly identical records last season and averaged almost the same number of points per game, and both made it to the second round of the playoffs and sent two starters to the All-Star Game. For all intents and purposes, they're identical teams. But the Clippers' average ticket price was nearly 50 bucks cheaper per game than the Lakers. (Despite the expensive acquisition of Chris Paul, the Clippers raised their tickets only 1.7 percent, compared with the Lakers' 4.7 percent.) That helps explain why the Clippers were the most improved franchise in the NBA for the second year in a row (up 69 spots overall), while the Lakers dropped 38 spots over the same span. Sure, the Lakers have history and mystique, but those are expensive words for NBA fans. After creating their own exciting brand of Lob City basketball and signing Blake Griffin to a five-year extension, the Clippers may be closer than ever to casting a shadow of their own in LA.