"I was at home feeling sorry for myself after getting fired," Bailey said. "Then I heard some announcer saying the same thing about the Clippers -- how they would never amount to anything and how horrible they were. That's when I said this is going to be my team and we're going to rise together."
That was about 15 years ago. Since then Bailey has transformed himself into "Clipper Darrell," a red-and-blue-suited dancing machine who has attended 340 consecutive Clippers games and counting.
It isn't hard to spot Bailey, 41, during Clippers games. While his ticket stub may claim that he sits in section 107, row 9, seat 21, Bailey can usually be spotted standing and dancing in the aisles next to his seat, chanting, "Let's go Clippers!" or, his personal favorite, when an opposing player steps to the free-throw line, "U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly!"
Now, normally a rabid fan wouldn't be such a novelty for a team, but when you're the Clippers and you advertise the opposition's best players in attempts to sell tickets and play second fiddle to the Lakers in your own building, this type of fan isn't just rare, it's unprecedented.
While Bailey has been a Clippers fan for more than 15 years, he has only been a season ticket holder since the 2000-01 season, explaining, "It's hard to get season tickets when you're out of work."
Bailey can't recall the first time he saw himself on the JumboTron at Staples Center. It near the end of his first season as a season-ticket holder and he loved seeing himself dance around in his Clippers jersey as the crowd cheered. "I remember they were playing my song,
After a few radio appearances, Bailey, originally known by fans as "Dancing Man," became known as "Clipper Darrell" and was no longer simply some unknown crazed fan but a household name not only to fans but also to Clippers players and executives.
"The passion and commitment that he shows is amazing. He's there for every game," Clippers coach
The highlight of Bailey's fandom came just before the Clippers faced the Suns in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2006. He drove to LAX to see the Clippers off, simply hoping to shake a few hands before the team bordered their charter to Phoenix. Instead, Clippers owner
"I didn't have a place to stay so I wasn't sure what I was doing," said Bailey. "When we got there, Mr. Sterling said he had a room for me and invited me to a steak dinner at Morton's. I know what people say, but he's a good man. That was the best thing that ever happened to me."
While the Clippers lost to the Suns, ending their most successful season ever, Bailey redoubled his devotion to the Clippers in the offseason. He had already started wearing a custom-made suit, half red, half blue. "I got it in 2005 after the NBA said players had to dress up for games, so I said why not the fans?" he said.
After the '06 season, however, Bailey, who now owns a car-customizing service, took it a step further and customized a 1995 BMW 740i, turning it into the ultimate Clippermobile, painted in red, white and blue from the outside to the leather interior, with a Clippers logo and autographs on the hood and "CLIPERD" license plates.
"I would say that I get about 80 percent that wave and honk their horns saying right on," said Bailey, who spent about $13,500 customizing his car. "The other 20 percent are people that want to disrespect it, giving me the middle finger or the L sign. I get it. It's a Laker town."
Even Bailey's Los Angeles home, where he lives with his wife and four children, is painted in honor of the Clippers with a red, white and blue basketball court in the driveway with a Clippers logo plastered on the pavement. The front door is red and the living room is white and blue with Clippers logos plastered everywhere from the wall to the floor tiles.
"He probably would bleed red, white and blue," said Clippers forward
Bailey's dedication to the Clippers has even caught the attention of opposing teams. Bailey says he's had the likes of
"Just to have a billionaire acknowledge me and offer me a job was an honor," said Bailey. "They're first-class, but Clipper Nation made me who I am and I could never work for someone and be a fan. I already worked for someone who controlled my life and I never want that again."
Bailey may be a Clippers fan until the end, but he won't blindly support the direction of the team after they trudged through what he calls the most disappointing season he can remember as a fan. As the Clippers were getting blown out by the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies late in the season, he could clearly be heard adding new chant to his new arsenal, "Fire Dunleavy! Fire Dunleavy!"
Even "Clipper Darrell," it seems, has his breaking point when it comes to the most infamous franchise in sports.