'It'll be weird.' Clippers react to Staples Center name change to Crypto.com Arena

·3 min read
LOS ANGELES CA FEBRUARY 24, 2020 -- Fans gather outside Staples Center the the 'Celebration of Life' for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, honoring the late NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter who died along with seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas last month. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Fans gather outside Staples Center, which will soon be renamed Crypto.com Arena. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson is rarely lost for words.

But upon learning late Tuesday, after the Clippers’ 106-92 win against San Antonio in Staples Center, that the building would soon be renamed Crypto.com Arena, the point guard who gladly discusses the books he is reading and emotions he is feeling during freewheeling post-game press conferences was incredulous enough that his response lasted all of one word.

“What?” he said.

The 20-year naming rights agreement, which is worth more than $700 million, according to The Times, won’t officially take effect until Christmas Day, not that it stopped news of the change from sparking hours of jokes Tuesday night on social media, where the building has already earned the unofficial nickname the Crypt (and its victors perhaps Crypt Keepers).

It also won’t stop many within the NBA from referring, whether out of habit or nostalgia, to the building by the name that has graced its walls since its 1999 opening. The same way the Garden is shorthand for New York within NBA circles, Staples meant Los Angeles, Jackson said.

“I don't know how it's gonna be not Staples, like, I can't, I can't see it,” Jackson said. “I apologize ahead, I'll still be calling it Staples.”

For Jackson and teammate Paul George, processing the name change felt like the cryptocurrency exchange’s nonfungible product: impossible to grasp.

“It’ll definitely be weird,” George said. “It’s just, it’s the same location, but it’s kind of like just stripping the history here by calling it something else. You know, from there going forward, it’s I guess the new history to be written. But it’ll be weird.”

Since the Clippers unveiled plans in September to name their new Inglewood arena that is scheduled to open in 2024 the Intuit Dome, team executives and players have been open about their eagerness to move into their future home, where it will no longer draw the third-most lucrative home-game dates as Staples’ third tenant. As George quipped, “Good thing we won’t be here too long.”

Yet George and Jackson’s responses Tuesday also revealed an emotional attachment to the downtown building that hosted so many memorable games from their childhood, particularly the Lakers teams headlined by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant — and featuring current Clippers coach Tyronn Lue — that won three consecutive championships. Jackson called Staples Center among only a handful of “select spots” in the NBA whose history made it mean more for players to compete there, joining, in his personal estimation, New York’s Madison Square Garden, Boston’s TD Garden and Golden State’s former Oakland home, Oracle Arena.

“They have their history here,” Jackson said. “Kobe, especially my era, growing up, watching those championships. Shaq. Nah, it's too many memories. It's gonna be hard to not call it Staples. I can't imagine, I don't even know if you can do that. Like, honestly, we just need to have a new arena."

George was raised in Palmdale as a Clippers fan who also idolized Kobe Bryant’s exploits within the arena.

“I grew up this being Staples, and Staples being the place to play and the place to be,” George said.

Before Jackson walked to his car and left the arena, he turned around in a ground-floor hallway just off the court to look at a marquee bearing the arena’s, for now, Staples name.

The point guard raised his phone and took a picture.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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