With all due respect to the Los Angeles Clippers, LA is and always has been a city of the Lakers. The Purple and Gold have 17 championship banners hanging on the rafters of the Staples Center. Meanwhile, the Clippers have just made their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals, a six-game loss to the Phoenix Suns.
However, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is eager to change LA’s allegiances. The eccentric billionaire invested time and money to equate his franchise with his big brothers in town. And now Ballmer is calling on Lakers fans in a way that should add a little more juice to the Hollywood rivalry.
Steve Ballmer helped the Los Angeles Clippers become title contenders
Ballmer, who became famous as the CEO of Microsoft, bought the Clippers for $ 2 billion in 2014. It was the third time he made a property offer for an NBA team that had previously attempted to buy the Seattle SuperSonics in 2008 and the Sacramento Kings in 2013. But after 33-year-old Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life because of racist comments, the window opened for Ballmer.
With new owners and stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin at the helm, LA made the playoffs for each of the next three seasons. The franchise then began rebuilding, selling both Paul and Griffin less than a year apart. But in the summer of 2019, Ballmer and the Clippers shocked the basketball world when they took over both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
With the two new superstars, the Clippers finished 49-23 in 2019-20. However, their hopes for the title were dashed after they lost a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the semifinals of the Western Conference. They finished a similar 47-25 last season but fell to the Suns as Leonard missed the series with a partial cruciate ligament rupture.
Without first-round picks until 2027, Ballmer has the Clippers in full “win now” mode. And he plans to showcase his incoming team in a brand new arena in Inglewood, slated to open in 2024.
Ballmer cast shadows on fans of the Los Angeles Lakers
Last season, the Clippers reached the Conference Finals, while the Lakers fell in the first round. But the city of Los Angeles didn’t exactly trade its purple and gold colors for red and blue.
“Why did so many in town cheer against us?” Ballmer asked in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In some places it does. … For a long time the Clippers were nothing, so nobody had to pay attention, and there is no threat to people who have always been Lakers fans. “
Now that the Clippers are something, Ballmer wants to know why Laker Nation has an innate dislike for his team (h / t: LA Times).
“I was surprised by the animus of the Lakers fans and my message was, why don’t you have enough faith in your boys? There are 29 other teams that you have to beat to win a championship but you have to be quite worried about us. The Lakers are a great organization, a great franchise, but Laker fans must be a little worried about us. “
Ballmer went on to say that regardless of what people think, the Clippers are no longer the Clippers they used to be.
“Well, we did pretty well,” said Ballmer. “We really mean business, you can see we mean business. We’re not the old screwed-up franchise in town, we’re getting our show together, and I think because we’re bringing our show together, people get like, ‘Come on, you can’t get your show together, it’s just my team, my team is the only thing that matters!’ No, we are coming. Came.”
Will the Clippers ever match the Lakers?
Historically, the Clippers will never rival the Lakers’ decades of success and the numerous Hall of Famers who wear their uniform. If the clips couldn’t oust the Lakers in LA when the Purple and Gold were in their worst five years in franchise history, they never will. But Steve Ballmer and the other Los Angeles team are also closer than ever.
Ballmer has shown a willingness to add stars like Leonard and George. He is building a state-of-the-art arena that will become your own home and no other. And his general commitment to the Clippers was noticed by the league. The billionaire was named the league’s top owner in a December 2020 poll on The Athletic.
“I would say Ballmer is No. 1,” said a scout from the survey. “His enthusiasm, his willingness to spend money, what he did with the Clippers, forged his way to LA, created his own identity and now built his own building, that’s bad news.”
“He gave the Clippers all the resources they needed,” said another scout. “He lets his people do their job.”
“We’re going to have some competition,” said Ballmer. I don’t mean the fandom in town, I mean we’re going to be real competition in this league. It’s not like the Clippers for the first, no matter how many years, where you can just write them off at the start of the season. We’re going to be a serious competitor and people aren’t used to that. “
If the Clippers win a championship, maybe Laker fans will show them some respect. But until then, the rivalry should continue.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.
RELATED: Blake Griffin Courts About Clippers Failures: “(2015) Was Just a Complete Mental Breakdown”