Ballmer energetically kicks off 'new day' for Clippers
AUG 18, 2014 7:33p ET
LOS ANGELES -- It hasn't always been Hip to Clip.
"It's a New Day" was the overwhelming theme Monday for the Clippers organization and its fans, as new owner Steve Ballmer was introduced at the Clippers Fan Festival inside Staples Center.
Head coach Doc Rivers jokingly told a story about people in Los Angeles who were bashful in their claim of being Clippers fans.
"I would go to a restaurant and the guy would cozy up to me and he would whisper, 'Hey, I'm a Clipper fan,'" Rivers said.
Monday, there was no whispering.
Loud and proud in their red, white and blue, Clipper Nation no longer had to hide. The franchise not only is being talked about outside of Los Angeles, but outside of the country as well.
Ballmer says his new team currently is "the hottest brand in basketball," and he mentioned Dick Parsons' story as an example.
"He was talking about being with the president of one of the African nations last week," Ballmer says of Parsons, the franchise's interim CEO, "and the (African president) was all fired up about the Clippers. Not some other name, the L-A Clippers."
The estimated 4,500 fans who were inside Staples Center on Monday tell their own story.
It's one of passion. It's hard core. It's a new day.
As the team's new owner was introduced Monday, he emerged from the tunnel wearing a blue hat with the red and white "LAC" logo on the front.
Ballmer was the opposite of understated during his introduction. The former Microsoft CEO boldly made his first appearance as the team's new owner. With the lights low at the Staples Center, he walked through the aisles handing out hi-fives, chest-bumping fans, waving his arms up and down as if to tell the crowd to get excited.
Once Ballmer took the stage, he placed his left hand behind his left ear and gestured to the crowd that he needed to hear more. Not only had Clippers fans fallen in love with his deep pockets, his Hulk Hogan impersonation was a hit.
This was unlike anything the Clippers organization or its fans had ever seen. They had no idea they were looking at a man who, on the inside, was extremely nervous.
"I'll admit I was pretty nervous before I went out," Ballmer said, "I figured, OK, well, wing it. Go with you natural style and hope you don't' screw it up.' I was fired up and then the fans got fired up and then I got more fired up.
"I, certainly, got over my nervousness. Now we'll have to see whether I got anything I got to do to clean up messes from anything I said. It was real, real fun."
As Rivers watched the team's new owner parade around on the Staples Center floor, the owner exemplified everything the head coach talked about when he told the crowd they no longer needed to be ashamed to be Clippers fans.
Players, staff and fans now could be as bold as their new owner.
"When I say 'We are Clippers,' it now means something," Rivers said.
It certainly was a new day.