When people talk about the “Curse of the Clippers” they will often mention Danny Manning.
He was the top pick in the 1988 NBA draft. The future of the franchise was in his hands but he only played 29 games in his rookie season as he injured his knee. It is a pattern through the Clippers’ history, they either make bad draft picks or they make good picks but then those players get injured.
The reason why Manning went at pick 1 and why the fans of the Clippers had such high hopes was his college career at Kansas. For four seasons he was a superstar.
During his time in college he set a record for the most NCAA Division 1 games with scoring of 10 points or more, he reached double-figures in 132 college games. It was Manning that led Kansas to the championship in 1988.
Danny Manning was the Wooden winner, the Naismith winner, named best player for the NCAA tournament, Manning was a superstar. His career college averages were 20.1 points and 8.1 rebounds. Over the four years his shooting percentage was 58.3% despite facing many double-teams and he was a solid 74% for free throws.
Manning played in the 1988 Olympics, winning bronze, and then his NBA career started. Every year in the NBA he kept working at his game but it took until his fifth season to get over 20 points a game, when he scored 22.8.
His knees didn’t stop him becoming a superstar but they did seem to hinder his development.
The Los Angeles Clippers were worried that Manning would not want to stay when his contract ran out, so they sent him to the Atlanta Hawks for Dominique Wilkins and a 1994 first round draft pick. The Clippers used the pick to draft Greg Minor. Wilkins didn’t stay.
Now an unrestricted free agent, Danny Manning signed with the Phoenix Suns. It seemed like a good idea, going to a team that was a contender. During his time with the Suns, Manning’s role was often uncertain.
More than a role player, but less than a star. At the Clippers he was one of the big stars, but at Phoenix they already had Charles Barkley at power forward. Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and Wesley Person took a lot of shots and the Suns had other players to put in the paint including A.C. Green, Wayman Tisdale, Danny Schayes and Joe Kleine. Manning did produce around 18 points in his first season with the Suns, but for the seasons following that he was often closer to 13 points per game.
Phoenix would trade him to Orlando and that started his trip around the NBA.
The trade was Manning and Pat Garrity, a 2001 first round draft pick and a 2002 first round draft pick to the Orlando Magic for Anfernee Hardaway. Orlando didn’t want Manning and packaged him with Dale Ellis and sent him to the Milwaukee Bucks for Chris Gatling and Armen Gilliam.
After one season he was waived by the Milwaukee Bucks. Then things picked up for Manning during his season with Utah, he was a good fit on a team that had veterans Stockton, Malone and Starks. He finished his career with a season in Dallas and then a year with the Detroit Pistons.