On Tuesday, August 12th, 2014, the Los Angeles Clippers made a hard-pivot away from a very dark era, and instantly transformed themselves into a professionally-run NBA franchise. With blessings from the NBA front office, Shelly Sterling finalized the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise to Steve Ballmer, and an era–that most feel should have never happened–ended. For long-suffering Clippers fans the news came like a refreshing blast of cold air on a hot, muggy day. Incredibly, the 30-year reign of Donald T. Sterling was finally over, finished, done; completed, concluded, and terminated.
Since moving his team to Los Angeles, the cantankerous Mr. Sterling’s unwieldy influence over front-office decisions led to numerous bad trades, bad draft choices, and generally bad outcomes from those decisions. Indeed, through its first twenty-five years in Los Angeles, the franchise completed only two regular seasons with an above-.500 record, compared to twenty-two below it and one break-even year. Viewed from another perspective, during his entire thirty-three year career as owner, Mr. Sterling’s Clipper-franchise lost fifty or more games twenty-two times, sixty or more on 8 occasions, and seventy games once. With the negative impetus of constantly lowered expectations, Mr. Sterling managed to create the most inept franchise in the history of the NBA, and maybe the other three major U.S. pro sports.
For the new owner, Steve Ballmer, the first order of business should be to chart a new path by quickly sprinting in the opposite direction. With $2 billion dollars’ worth of skin-in-the-game, he understands that the only obvious return on investment will come in the form of an NBA championship, preferably sooner than later. Considering the size of Mr. Ballmer’s investment, in relation to the value of the franchise, making a profit in the near-term was obviously not the first concern.
Given the overwhelmingly positive reaction to his takeover, if Mr. Ballmer did absolutely nothing else to benefit his team going forward most Clipper fans would still gladly sing his praises simply for ousting the notorious DTS. However, from the rest of the city Mr. Ballmer may have to settle for a simple thumbs-up, until he gets that championship ring. Afterwards, most bandwagoners and Laker fans everyone else will also jump into the pool, and perhaps the local hoops paradigm will finally shift to red, white, and blue.
With that said, welcome to Hollywoodland, Mr. Ballmer. During your stay, you will be seen, heard, recorded, reviewed, and critiqued by an audience of many. Feel free to relax as you are guaranteed a sustained, standing ovation…because the previous act stunk that badly.