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Steve Ballmer's plan: Make Clippers 'America's team'

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by Clips/Roxfan, Oct 3, 2014.

  1. Clips/Roxfan

    Clips/Roxfan Member

    Jun 30, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports 11:19 p.m. EDT October 2, 2014


    LOS ANGELES — By the time Steve Ballmer is done sharing his vision for his new $2 billion basketball team inside this Staples Center conference room, the new Los Angeles Clippers owner may as well be on stage for one of those Microsoft conventions that went viral on YouTube years ago.

    The 58-year-old whose passion became legendary during his time as the tech giant's CEO is yelling, again, this time because he remembered how fitting his Clippers' first regular season opponent will be: the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last May when the Donald Sterling saga was still sucking the life out of this building.

    "We've got some preseason games coming up, and then on Oct. 30 baby vs. OKC!" Ballmer hollers with a fist pump, narrowly missing the empty glass of iced tea in front of him during a 30-minute interview with USA TODAY Sports. "You couldn't start in a better spot than where we ended off last year ..."

    He can say that again.

    Nearly five months after Sterling's racist comments that were revealed by TMZ set the stage for Ballmer's record-breaking purchase, this Clippers organization that had to endure such an embarrassing time has been re-energized by this man who recently was deemed the richest owner in sports (with a net worth of $22.5 billion).

    There's talk of the once-lowly Clippers one day becoming "America's team," a far-fetched hope that Ballmer shared when he bought the team in late May and sees as a modern-day version of the Magic Johnson-led Lakers in the 1980s. There's a commitment to give back in the community that he sees as vital considering the context, as Sterling's reputation as a slumlord was widely known long before he was taken down Al-Capone style.

    "The burden on us to do that is perhaps even higher just because of whence we came," Ballmer explains.

    There's a long-term plan that has Clippers coach and President Doc Rivers leading the way, as Ballmer recently gave him a five-year contract extension worth more than $50 million. There's the craziest of schedules for a retired guy, too, as Ballmer — who has three sons with his wife, Connie — is still based in Seattle but teaches an MBA class twice a week at the Stanford business school he once attended before dropping out after two years to join Bill Gates at the forefront of the PC revolution.

    The class, quite fittingly, is deemed "Leading Organizations." So what kind of leader will he be for this Clippers franchise that flailed so often until recent years?

    "(It will) probably (be) about the way I would work with the engineering organizations at Microsoft," he said in discussing his level of involvement in the basketball side of this business. "I don't write software; I never have for a living. Do I ask a lot of questions? Yes. Do I get smarter and smart about what questions to ask? Yes. Do I bring an external point of view? Yes. Do I try to micromanage? No. And can't.

    "I feel the same way on the basketball side. If I didn't have great faith and confidence in Doc, (it wouldn't work). But really, me saying, 'Should we play Player A instead of (Player) B?' No, I can't do stuff like that. That's what Doc is in the job for, and he's really good."

    USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick breaks down mindset of the Clippers under new ownership and their mission to leave the past behind.

    What there isn't in this new Ballmer-led world, he's not afraid to admit, is a plan to continue using Apple products as a scouting tool aimed toward winning titles.

    "Look, I'm a homer," says Ballmer, who retired from Microsoft after 34 years in August but still has more shares (333 million) than any other investor. "When the Clippers buy (equipment)? Well, come on. That's kind of like my money. With my own money, I'm allowed to show favoritism."

    After all these years of failed attempts to buy his own team, from runs made at the Seattle SuperSonics years ago to the 2013 push he made with hedge fund manager Chris Hansen at the Sacramento Kings and even a flirtation with the Milwaukee Bucks, he's earned that much — and a whole lot more. But as Ballmer is well aware, his seemingly endless riches won't be enough to take this team to the proverbial next level.

    "We'll focus in on our job, which is to try to have the best team we can, have the bestexperience enjoying the game, whether you're at home or in the stadium, on your phone, wherever you are," Ballmer says, his fists pumping and voice growling as he grows more excited. "We're going to have the best experience, we're going to have the best team."

    He's pounding the table, clapping even.

    "We're going to work at it," he continues, his voice like the sound of a beating drum. "Nobody's going to outwork us. Nobody's going to care more. Nobody's going to do more to make that successful than the L.A. Clippers. That I'll commit to."

    Considering Ballmer spent about 8% of his estimated wealth to buy the Clippers, and in doing so nearly quadrupled the previous high purchase price for an NBA team, it should surprise no one that he's committed to this sporting endeavor. From that late-April morning when his middle son called to tell him of the Sterling tapes and said so confidently, "This team is going to sell," to the late May moment when he cut the record-setting check, Ballmer has attacked this late-in-life challenge just as he has every other.

    Regrets, he's surely had a few. But this choice, price point be darned, is certainly not one.

    "The world breaks into two camps," he chuckles regarding the question of whether it was a wise investment. "People who are sure I must have paid too much, and people who are sure I didn't."

    "The ones who speak up the most think I probably paid too much," he says. "But there are many smart people I know who would agree with me that I paid a reasonable price… I expect to own this until essentially I die, so that's 25, 30 years (from now). Will it perform as well as the stock market — 'total return,' as they like to say in the investment business? Yeah, I think I'll do as well as if I owned an index fund that represented the S&P 500. That's OK. I won't outperform it, but I'll do at least as well. ... And that's OK with me. That's a pretty good return."

    As Ballmer knows, you can't become "America's team" if you can't even win the turf war in your own town. And even with the recent failings of the storied Los Angeles Lakers, it's undeniable that the purple-and-gold's popularity still far exceeds that of Ballmer's Clippers.

    But Ballmer, whose new office isn't far from the Staples Center courtyard where Lakers legends are honored with statues and there isn't a Clipper in sight, is determined to turn this town, and the league at large, upside down.

    "How did the Lakers get to be 'America's team'?" Ballmer says. "(It was) with Magic (Johnson) and championships in the '80s. That's what did it. (The) New York (Yankees) with Babe Ruth in the '20s, and New York with Mickey Mantle in the '60s. ... That's how you do it."

    But can they do it?

    "Yeah, I think we have an opportunity (to be America's team)," he says from the edge of his seat, his pitch on the rise yet again. "But we've really got to light 'em up. We've got incredible superstar guys at the helm in Blake (Griffin) and Chris (Paul) and DJ (DeAndre Jordan). We're playing in a great market. We have this unfortunate situation (with Sterling), and yet all that's done for the forward-looking thing is put the Clippers on everybody's road map.

    "Everybody wants this story to end with the guys who had to live through this succeeding!"


    The man does have deep pockets....

  2. hooroo

    hooroo Member

    Oct 16, 2003
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    Too much Miles Davis in that concoction of coach and players to be "America's team".
  3. AroundTheWorld

    AroundTheWorld Insufferable 98er
    Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2000
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    Steve Ballmer is a ridiculous character.
  4. Easy

    Easy Boban Only Fan
    Supporting Member

    Jul 23, 2002
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    It's not even LA's team.
    1 person likes this.
  5. EightDoobies

    EightDoobies Member

    Oct 3, 2013
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    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/8To-6VIJZRE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  6. Pieman2005

    Pieman2005 Member

    Sep 30, 2009
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    The Clippers are one of the worst sports organizations in American sports history.. how are they going to become America's team? Lol. America's team is a made up media expression to promote Cowboys' popularity anyways
  7. Classic

    Classic Member

    Dec 21, 2007
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    Yeah, not gonna happen. Chris Paul flops too much and Griffin pimps kia.
  8. zeeshan2

    zeeshan2 Member

    Feb 20, 2013
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    The Cowboys are offended
  9. shastarocket

    shastarocket Member

    Jul 18, 2006
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    Steve Ballmer is like Cuban on steroids except he knows nothing about basketball
  10. bmd

    bmd Member

    Feb 16, 2012
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    Dallas kind of is America's team. I think they are the most popular team in the country and have fans all over.

    Quite a feat for a team from Dallas, Texas.
  11. scottie brooks

    Nov 9, 2009
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  12. napalm06

    napalm06 Huge Flopping Fan

    Sep 30, 2008
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    Kinda sad he didn't work things out with the SuperSonics - then we might be discussing the possibility of them becoming America's team (which would be equally entertaining), plus they'd still be around.
  13. supdudes

    supdudes Member

    Feb 9, 2009
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    I never trust a man who sticks his pinky out.
  14. ZJP3

    ZJP3 Member

    Sep 2, 2010
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    At this point in time the Cowboys have WAY more haters than they have fans. They are ESPNs team, not America's.
  15. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Member

    Dec 5, 2001
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    Man from overheated software industry justifies overbuying a team with bubble price in hopes of getting investment return back in 20 years.

    Only in a America.
  16. brantonli24

    brantonli24 Member

    Jun 30, 2006
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    What's the point of earning so much money if you aren't going to spend it?
  17. Liberon

    Liberon Rookie

    Nov 10, 2009
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    They have all the pieces to make it so. I'm sure Balmer knows basketball inside out. He knows the personnel he got. And yeah I'm jealous....

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