There are four NBA teams located in the state of California, a staggering number to consider as there are only thirty total teams in the entire league. That means that the state of California makes up 13% of the entire league. It may not seem like a large number upon first glance but to think that if you take away the four California teams, you would have to represent forty-nine other states with only twenty-six teams in total.
Today, we will be taking a deeper look at each team located in the state of California along with a brief recap of their team history and some of their highlights throughout their tenure in the league.
1. Sacramento Kings
- First Year in NBA: 1985
- NBA Titles: 0
- Franchise Highlights: Took Lakers to 7 games in 2002 Western Conference Finals
- Notable Players: Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, DeMarcus Cousins
- Notable Coaches: None
The Kings’ history dates back much further than 1985. The Kings were known as the Rochester Royals from 1948 until 1957, winning the title in 1951. After that stint, they became the Kansas City Royals from 1957 through 1972. Their most notable star while in Kansas City was Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. They changed their name to the Kansas City Kings from 1973 through 1985 before moving to Sacramento.
Sacramento’s tenure in the league has not been as fruitful as Kings fans hoped. They seem to be in a constant rebuilding phase and have only experienced seven seasons with a winning record in the past thirty-three years. Their most notable team was the 2002 Kings who took the juggernaut Los Angeles Lakers to Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals before ultimately losing.
2002 has always been the year that got away and is bittersweet with fans due to a league-wide controversy where many fans believe the league wanted the Lakers to win the series to earn higher ratings for the league in the NBA Finals. Overall, however, their reputation has been one of the lackluster teams and mostly unforgettable seasons in their 33-year history.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
- First Year in NBA: 1984
- NBA Titles: 0
- Franchise Highlights: Reaching three Western Conference Semifinals (2012, 2014, 2015)
- Notable Players: Bob McAdoo, Elton Brand, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul
- Notable Coaches: Larry Brown, Bill Fitch, Doc Rivers
The Clippers’ reign in Los Angeles began in 1984 after then-owner Donald Sterling moved the team from San Diego. The Clippers also hold a similar reputation with the Sacramento Kings as a team that always seems to be in a transition phase. They always seem to have high first-round draft picks and usually whiff on those picks or unload them to other teams before having to pay them a big contract.
The Clippers have succeeded slightly more than their Sacramento neighbors, experiencing ten winning seasons in the last thirty-four years but have never made it to a Western Conference Finals series in their history.
The most well-known story about the team that has gotten them the most attention in franchise history is the controversy with their former owner, Donald Sterling, and the offensive, racist remarks he made in 2014. While he had been in the news for past frequent offenses, this instance got the most media attention.
3. Golden State Warriors
- First Year in NBA: 1962
- NBA Titles: 6 (1947 & 1956 – as Philadelphia Warriors, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018)
- Franchise Highlights: Winning 6 NBA Titles, 2016: Broke NBA regular-season win total (73)
- Notable Players: Nate Thurmond, “Tiny” Archibald, Rick Barry, Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant
- Notable Coaches: Don Nelson, Steve Kerr
The Golden State Warriors have seen both peaks and valleys during their 50-plus tenure in the league. Their early days in Philadelphia saw the rise of a young Wilt Chamberlain introduced to the league and the crowning achievement of winning multiple titles.
The team’s 1975 squad exceeded their expectations that year and upset the heavily favored Washington Bullets in a four-game sweep in the NBA Finals. The team was led by future Hall of Famers Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes and were on track to repeat the following year entering the playoffs with the league’s best record, but got upset in the playoffs.
In 1985 the team drafted Chris Mullin seventh overall and began building the team around his potent shooting and scoring abilities. The team also added talented guards Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway, and behind coach Don Nelson, began playing with high octane. They were dubbed “Run-TMC” – Tim, Mitch, and Chris after popular rap group Run-DMC – and began smoking teams all across the league.
The timing of the ‘90s Warriors teams was unlucky, however, with established teams like the Lakers and Pistons, and rising teams like the Bulls and Suns taking up much of the NBA hardware during these years. But it did put San Francisco on the map as an exciting place to watch great basketball.
The team earned moderate levels of success heading into and through the early 21st century until they drafted Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft. Once they realized what kind of talent they had in Curry, they began to build a team around his exciting run and gun style of play and added stars Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to the mix. This team, led by Steve Kerr and the newly dubbed “Splash Brothers”, surprised people by winning the NBA Title in 2015.
The Warriors had a record-setting regular season in 2016 but lost the title to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They added all-world player Kevin Durant to the team and rattled off two straight titles in 2017 and 2018. Curry and Thompson.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
- First Year in NBA: 1958
- NBA Titles: 16 (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 – as Minneapolis Lakers, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
- Franchise Highlights: Winning 16 NBA Titles – 2nd place all-time behind the Celtics
- Notable Players: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol
- Notable Coaches: John Kundla, Bill Sharman, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson
The most successful team from California is without a doubt the Los Angeles Lakers. Other than the Boston Celtics, the Lakers are the gold standard of teams in the history of the NBA. They have won a total of sixteen titles and five titles since 2000.
Their history is rich with success, beginning in the late 1940s and not truly letting up ever. They have won an NBA title in every decade except the 1960s and 1990s, but they did play in the Finals in those decades.
The Los Angeles time period of the Lakers’ history can be loosely broken down into the Wilt/Jerry West/Elgin Baylor era (1 title), the Magic Johnson/Showtime era (5 titles), the Kobe/Shaq/Phil Jackson era (3 titles), and the second Kobe/Phil Jackson (2 titles) era.
As an NBA fan, it would be a dream to root for an organization like the Lakers because they have always been competitive, they constantly look for the next generational star to sign or draft, and they are very loyal to their fans in Los Angeles.
If you are a basketball fan in the state of California, chances are you have experienced some success with your team, no matter who you pull for. As Lakers and Warriors fans, you have been luckier than most, but with the rise of popularity in the league overall, the “Golden State” is prepped for decades more success.
Are you lucky enough to root for a great California team? If so, let us know your favorite memory as a fan of theirs!