A fist-pumping, high-fiving Steve Ballmer enthusiastically vowed to run a “hardcore” NBA franchise that will win championships during a rally to introduce the new owner to Los Angeles Clipper fans.
Wearing a blue Clippers’ cap and clapping constantly, the former Microsoft chief executive shouted until he almost went hoarse on Monday as he moved quickly through Fan Festival crowd before taking the stage at the rally celebrating his new ownership of the club.
“Do we have any Clipper fans here? I can’t hear you,” he screamed in the raucous style he was known for at Microsoft. “I couldn’t be more honored or excited or fired up to be here.”
The US tech tycoon Ballmer paid a record US$2 billion for the Clippers in a sale that was confirmed by a US judge last week.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan joined Ballmer on the stage.
The name of disgraced owner Donald Sterling, who bought the team in 1981 for US$12.5 million, was not mentioned once during the rally.
“It may be frustrating, but it always takes time to do something complicated,” Ballmer said. “This had its own set of issues, but I am glad we’re here, we’re driving, we’re moving forward.”
Some of the fans had been waiting outside the Staples Center for four hours before the start of the rally.
Ballmer told the crowd that years ago he had planned to move to Los Angeles after he graduated.
However, those plans changed when his college buddy, Bill Gates, offered him a job at Microsoft.
He said on Monday that he loves Los Angeles and he loves basketball.
“We are going to be bold,” Ballmer said. “Bold means we are going to be willing to take risks. If you are not being bold, you are going to be timid. We are going to be hardcore. Hardcore. Hardcore. Hardcore. Nothing gets in our way. Boom. Keep coming. Hardcore. The hardcore Clippers, that is us.”
Ballmer lives in Seattle, but said he has no plans to move the team to the Pacific Northwest.
“I think Seattle is a town that deserves an NBA team and yet I wanted to move on and get going, and this was a phenomenal opportunity,” he said. “I love Los Angeles also and that’s where the Clippers play.”
Sterling, who made his fortune in real-estate rentals, had been under pressure to sell the team since the release of a tape between him and his girlfriend V. Stiviano. In the recording, Sterling criticizes the much younger Stiviano for having her picture taken with black people and tells her not to bring them to Clippers games.
Soon after the comments became public, the NBA slapped the 80-year-old owner with a lifetime ban from the league and began the process of stripping Sterling of ownership of the club.
Forward Griffin on Monday said that now that the Sterling saga is over, they can begin with a clean slate.
“We genuinely, genuinely want to thank you for your support throughout the season,” Griffin said. “Sometimes you go through a little adversity to become better.”
Clippers fan Eric Guerra said this marks a new era for the team.
“I am very, very happy and very excited for Steve Ballmer and everything that he represents,” Guerra said. “I know he has wanted a basketball team for some time now. He is not going to move us to Seattle, we are going to stay here in Los Angeles and win a championship.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also spoke to the crowd, telling them the team has a bright future.