Steve Ballmer stayed ready for next NBA opportunity after failed Sacramento Kings bid

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer addresses the crowd at the Consumer Electronics Show. (Photo: JD Lasica/

Steve Ballmer didn’t imagine he’d be where he is today. Owner of an NBA team? Not this soon. Not after what he went through in 2013.

A little more than a year ago, the former Microsoft CEO was part of a contingent with a strong plan and deep pockets to bring basketball back to Seattle. They came to a binding agreement to purchase and relocate the Sacramento Kings to the Pacific Northwest.

How that saga played out is well known around Sacramento now. Ballmer and his partners’ bid was rejected by the NBA and California’s capital city got to keep its only major league sports team.

Ballmer, who was formally introduced as the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, learned a great deal about the NBA ownership process from the failed Kings-to-Seattle deal. One of the major takeaways for the 58-year-old former technology chief was that he had to stay ready if another spot in the ownership ranks opened up for him.

“I had enough experience now looking at these things to know that not every team sells every year, sometimes teams sell infrequently and that I would need to be on my toes and take sort of the best available opportunity,” Ballmer said to media in Los Angeles at his introductory presser yesterday afternoon. “And I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.”

Ballmer took controlling interest in the Clippers last week following the lifetime ban of former owner Donald Sterling last spring. Since coming to an agreement to purchase the Clippers in May, Ballmer has been repeatedly asked about the idea of moving them to the Pacific Northwest. He reiterated to reporters yesterday that relocating the Clippers is not something he’s considering.

“I’ll tell you the hardest thing I did,” Ballmer said to Los Angeles media. “We did a little media availability up in Seattle for a golf event that I played in a couple of weeks with a group like this and I said, look I love Seattle. I’ve lived in Seattle 34 years. It is our home. It’s where our family lives, but it’s not where the L.A. Clippers are gonna play.”

Ballmer still hopes to one day see an NBA team back in Seattle. But as of right now, he’s strictly focused on the team he owns today.

“I don’t know how long it might take,” Ballmer said of the Emerald City’s chances of bringing back the Sonics. “I think Seattle’s a town that deserves an NBA team. And yet I wanted to move on and get going and this was a phenomenal opportunity.”


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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