While Steve Ballmer is on record as saying that he would not move the Clippers if his $2 billion bid is approved by the NBA, there is a pretty extensive history of the former Microsoft CEO trying to keep the NBA in Seattle — and bring a team back to the Emerald City after the league left town.
In 2008, in a last-ditch effort to keep the SuperSonics from moving to Oklahoma City, Ballmer helped lead a Seattle group that pledged to pay half the $300 million tab to renovate Key Arena. But the state ultimately did not approve funding for the other half, Ballmer withdrew the offer and the team left.
In 2012, Ballmer joined an investment group that wanted to build a new arena in Seattle, then use that arena to lure an NBA team to the city. Reports were that Ballmer believed his involvement would help bring local support to the idea because of his ties to Microsoft and Seattle making him so popular in the area. The Seattle Times reported Thursday that should Ballmer be awarded the Clippers, he would no longer be part of that investment group.
If Ballmer finally lands an NBA team, there’s plenty of reason to believe he’d try to take it to Seattle. But Ballmer says he’s committed to keeping the Clippers in LA, the nation’s second-largest media market and one of the few places where a $2 billion investment could pay off.
"I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win — and win big — in Los Angeles," Ballmer said in a press release from Shelly Sterling’s firm early Friday morning. "LA is one of the world’s great cities — a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness."
Also, the Seattle Times reported Thursday that any deal Ballmer agrees to would "almost certainly stipulate that Ballmer must keep the team in Los Angeles and not move it to Seattle."
While the Clippers have long been stepchildren to the Lakers since moving to LA in 1984, their stock has never been higher. They’re now the perennial playoff power while the Lakers are rebuilding. They have almost a decade left on their Staples Center lease, where they’ve been profitable partners with the Lakers, and both their local TV deal and the NBA’s national ones are up soon, meaning potentially major increases in revenue.
"If I get interested in the Clippers, it would be for Los Angeles," he replied. "I don’t work anymore, so I have more geographic flexibility than I did a year, year-and-a half ago. Moving them anywhere else would be value destructive."
But, FOX Sports’ Bill Reiter writes, Los Angeles doesn’t need a second NBA team. Seattle needs one. Fans around the basketball world will be watching to see what happens.