Steve Ballmer has Clippers and a title on his mind

As employees around Staples Center begin the new normal of setting up an empty stadium before each Los Angeles Clippers game, a lone chair is always left alongside the home team’s basket prior to the start of each game for the team’s No.1 fan.

Since taking over as owner of the Clippers back in 2014, Steve Ballmer has been the endless energizer bunny clapping, screaming, and pumping his fist courtside to every play his team makes.

During his introductory press conference after purchasing the team, Ballmer showed Clipper Nation the fire and passion he shared for his love of basketball in front of a packed Staples Center.

“I can’t be more honored, more excited, or fired up to be here,” Ballmer said. “One, I love basketball. No, I never really played I basically got cut from the freshman team, but I love basketball. I was a heck of a good statistician for my college team, but I can’t play a lick though I’ll take a few of you on a free throw shooting competition.”

This energy and passion for basketball radiate out of the owner like a beam of sunshine, something that the Clipper fan base hadn’t seen from previous ownership in over a decade.

Los Angeles Clippers press conference for Kawhi Leoanrd and Paul George
Los Angeles Clippers hold a press conference in South Los Angeles for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in July 2019. Seated next to the two NBA superstars is Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Instead, the Clippers had been mired in a swamp of mediocracy and failed to ever match up to their hometown rivals. All of this changed when Ballmer officially took over, finally providing hope and aspirations of banners in the rafters for a franchise that so desperately wants them.

When the ex-Microsoft CEO bought the Clippers for upwards of $2 billion, a record deal for any NBA franchise at the time, the sale was done so in part due to the former owner’s racist manners.

When allegations of racist remarks surfaced from previous owner Donald Sterling, the league moved swiftly to punish Sterling and ultimately force the sale of the franchise to new ownership.

The sale to Ballmer was a blessing in disguise for the franchise, as they now finally got an owner who truly cared about basketball beyond his bottom-line profits.

For Ballmer, owning the Clippers was a long-time commitment he was ready to make to the city of Los Angeles. When discussing the amount he spent to purchase the franchise, the multi-billionaire felt he got the better end of the deal.

“Lots of people run lots of numbers. I feel like I paid a price I’m excited about. It obviously was a price that was negotiated, and I feel very good about it,” Ballmer said. “It’s not a cheap price, but when you’re used to looking at tech companies with huge risk, no earnings, and huge multiples, this doesn’t look like the craziest thing I’ve ever acquired.”

A fired up Steve Ballmer during a Los Angeles Clippers press conference in South Los Angeles as the team officially welcomed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Photo credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Now seven years into his investment and endeavor as the owner of the Clippers, Ballmer is seeking the one thing the franchise has sorely missed throughout their existence, a Larry O’Brien Trophy.  Winning a championship is always a goal for any organization, but for the Clippers the ability to make the Western Conference Finals is a mountain that alone will be a tall hill to climb.

Having possibly assembled one of the best Clipper teams in recent memories, Ballmer has continued to make bold moves to help push the team over the top with hopes of reaching the promised land.

With the hiring of head coach Tyronn Lue this year along with the additions of superstar players like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George two years ago, the pieces are in place for another playoff run this season.

Ballmer showed a lot of inspiration back in July 2019 when the Clippers held a press conference in South Los Angeles to officially welcome Leonard and George.

“You watch them play, they’re tough,” Ballmer said. “I love the toughness…two guys who every year have gotten better. Every year. That’s the kind of…I’m inspired by that. Work offseason. Off-court…work, work, work, work, work, work. Two guys who are MVP guys.”

For head coach Tyronn Lue, his first impression of Ballmer came during his previous stint with the team during the 2013-2014 season. Lue quickly realized the love and joy that Ballmer shared in becoming the new team owner.

In his second year with the Los Angeles Clippers, Kawhi Leonard (2) is expected to lead the team on a NBA title chase this season. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline
In his second year with the Los Angeles Clippers, Kawhi Leonard (2) is expected to lead the team on an NBA title chase this season. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“You watch them play, they’re tough,” Ballmer said. “I love the toughness…two guys who every year have gotten better. Every year. That’s the kind of…I’m inspired by that. Work offseason. Off-court…work, work, work, work, work, work. Two guys who are MVP guys.”

“When I was here in 2013, 2014, I had a chance to meet with Mr. Ballmer and just seeing everything that he did for the organization, how he tried to turn it around and how he wanted everyone to be okay in a family-like environment,” Lue said. “When you have an owner who is so genuine for people and to people, it makes it a family environment and I love that the most.”

This genuine care for his staff, workers, and players is one that is seen every day by guard Reggie Jackson. For Jackson, having an owner like Ballmer makes coming to work that much easier day in and day out.

“It’s great. It’s great having Steve you know his personality and who he is,” Jackson said. “We have one of the best owners in the league, if not the best, in my eyes definitely the best. Having his energy…with us missing fans has been tough this year.  But knowing we have a little extra energy in the building each and every time we play at home-he’s going to be feisty.

“He’s going to be riled up and definitely enjoying the moment,” Jackson added. “It’s always great having him here and having someone invested and they’re showing their face makes it a lot easier, makes it a lot more fun to compete for a guy that you know is bringing everything he has.”

With the Clippers currently sitting fourth in the Western Conference standings, the second half of the season will be a race to the finish line with one goal in mind, a championship. Until then, you’ll be sure to see Ballmer cheering and screaming every minute of every play of every game.

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