News

With Sterling saga over, Ballmer gets ovation from Clipper Nation

With Sterling saga over, Ballmer gets ovation from Clipper Nation

CLIPPERS CONTROVERSY: Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer at fan fest at Staples Center. Photo: Reuters/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – With his trademark top-of-the-lungs, high-fiving, rambunctious enthusiasm, former Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer introduced himself to Los Angeles Clippers fans on Monday, promising a new era for the NBA team after former owner Donald Sterling was banned for life over racist remarks.

Ballmer, 58, who paid an NBA-record $2 billion for the Clippers, greeted the several thousand gathered at the team’s Staples Center home with the primal screams that punctuated meetings at the Seattle technology company.

“I couldn’t be more honored or excited or fired up to be here,” Ballmer exclaimed as he was welcomed with a standing ovation.

Ballmer, who said he will be a courtside fixture at games, took over the Clippers last week, ending Sterling’s 33 years of ownership that were marked by decades of losing and second-tier status to local rival, the Lakers.

The NBA banned Sterling for life in April, days after his privately taped remarks imploring a girlfriend not to publicly associate with black people were published.

The remarks, which were publicized during the Clippers’ playoff run, sparked public outrage, prompted sponsors to cut ties with the team and caused Clippers players, who are mostly black, to consider a boycott.

The 80-year-old real estate billionaire also unsuccessfully fought in court to keep the team after his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, struck the deal with Ballmer.

“Everything is about looking forward,” Ballmer told the crowd, striking a tone about new beginnings for a team that finds itself for the first time as a playoff contender behind superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

‘A GREAT CHANGE’

The playoffs came after the Clippers acquired top players in recent years. Now they are also in a new position of commanding the off-season spotlight.

“We made lemonade out of lemons,” Ballmer said alongside eight of the team’s players who were in attendance, praising their performance last year during the Sterling saga.

Sterling’s comments embarrassed the NBA and Clippers supporters.

“I think it’s going to be a great change, a positive change,” said Clippers fan Teri Renty. “It’s something we desperately needed, and it will really be great for the team in giving them the energy and the momentum to look forward to good things.”

The rally served as a restart for fans who were given t-shirts in Clippers red, white and blue that read “We are Clipper Nation” along with “It’s a New Day” on the back.

Head coach Doc Rivers, who considered quitting if Sterling remained as owner, characterized the Ballmer era as one of relief for fans, who had for years been publicly reserved in their support for the longtime Western Conference doormats.

“Now they can actually say it and be proud of it, and I’m very happy for them,” Rivers told reporters after the rally.

“If we do it right, the name can stand for something.”

(Additional reporting by Alicia Avila; Editing by Mary Milliken and Ken Wills)

Latest Stories

in Albemarle County, Charlottesville City, Local, Surrounding Counties

Closed Session, No Public Comment For Greene County Supers

Greene County Seal    110913

Supervisor Eddie Deane wants any possible actions taken regarding a no-interest loan for the county's top administrator to be released.

in Albemarle County, Charlottesville City, Election, Local, Surrounding Counties

Virginians Split On Confederate Flag

Elephant Donkey Symbols 031608

A Quinnipiac University poll shows 46% in favor of getting rid of the Confederate flag on Virginia license plates, with 45% who want to keep it.

in National, Sports

U.S. Olympic Committee ends effort to bring 2024 Games to Boston

olympics

Boston backed out of its effort to host the 2024 Olympics, hours after the mayor said he would not "commit" to a deal if it meant taxpayers would foot the bill for hosting such a large-scale event.

in National

Safety regulators fine Chrysler record $105 million

chrysler

The automaker's agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contains an unprecedented buyback option covering hundreds of thousands of vehicles.