I remember when news of the deal first went down. After the story broke almost three months ago, I can recall seeing the primary benefactor, and having one thought cross my mind:
“Does that mean the Clippers are headed to Seattle?”
In case you had been living under a rock for the last few months, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer agreed to purchase the NBA team from the Sterling Trust for a record sum of $2 billion, back in May of this year. While some could say Ballmer grossly overpaid for a franchise that has only recently seen consistent on-court success, many would say the price tag, ironically, is a small price to pay for the alternative.
After all, this came at a point when the national consciousness was in full agreement that Donald Sterling, disgraced by racist comments made public by his mistress earlier this year, needed to be ousted from his 33-year tenure as primary owner of the team. And, considering Sterling’s constant insistence that he would never sell the team at the time, it was going to take a monumental bid to pry the franchise from his hands.
The deal was finally settled last week, despite Donald Sterling’s continued objections, and the Washington native held a celebratory rally earlier today as the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
So, what does this mean for the franchise? The only reason I ask is that, besides the fact that the Clips will no longer have the dark cloud of Donald Sterling hanging over their heads, a new owner could come with both welcome, and possibly unwelcome, changes.
Again, need I remind you that this was the same guy who bankrolled the investment group led by Chris Hansen to buy the Sacramento Kings and relocate them to Seattle. And he all but succeeded, too, if not for an eleventh hour miracle by the city of Sacramento (with a little help by the NBA Board of Governors).
Sure, Ballmer has already insisted that he has no intentions of moving the Clippers in the same fashion, considering the negative financial implications of such a move. He even said that he loves Los Angeles (then again, who wouldn’t? Hollywood looks good to just about anyone). But, like all things, business decisions can be fluid – and, as this FanSided article established, there’s no clause in the deal saying Ballmer is obligated to keep the Clippers in La La Land.
So … would Ballmer seriously transform the Clippers into the new incarnation of the Seattle SuperSonics?
Whatever you may think of Ballmer’s involvement being purely altruistic and/or financially-driven, it’s still a fair question to ask. We’re talking about a guy with the money to single-handedly throw $2 billion at a league that hadn’t seen a franchise sold for more than 27.5 percent of that obscene sum of money.
We’re also talking about a guy who fought tooth-and-nail in a futile movement to keep the Sonics in the Pacific Northwest. If there was any way for a guy that dead-set on bringing a team back to Seattle, wouldn’t it be to buy the team, himself?
Then, you have to consider that Clay Bennett kind of said the same thing about the Sonics back in 2008, when he was apparently making back-door deals with Oklahoma City to move the team there. No reason to think that Ballmer – an avid supporter of a Sonics resurgence in Seattle – could also be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
With all that said, I could easily be wrong – he may truly keep the Clippers right where they are, and attempt to build another championship franchise within the confines of the Staples Center. In that case, I’m being an alarmist.
Then again … it’s still Steve Ballmer.
I’m just saying it’s a possibility.