Steve Ballmer and fans go wild at Clippers rally
New owner works raucous crowd into a frenzy at an event to celebrate the start of a fresh era of 'hard-core' support for the Los Angeles team
A fist-pumping, high-fiving Steve Ballmer enthusiastically vowed to run a "hard-core" NBA franchise that will win championships during a rally to introduce the new owner to Los Angeles Clippers fans.
Wearing a blue Clippers' cap and clapping constantly, the former Microsoft chief executive shouted until he almost went hoarse as he moved quickly through the Fan Festival crowd.
"Do we have any Clipper fans here? I can't hear you," he screamed in the raucous style he was known for at Microsoft. "I couldn't be more honoured or excited or fired up to be here."
US tech tycoon Ballmer paid a record US$2 billion for the Clippers in a sale that was confirmed by a judge last week.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan joined Ballmer on the stage.
The name of disgraced owner Donald Sterling, who bought the team in 1981 for US$12.5 million, wasn't mentioned once.
Some of the fans had been waiting outside Staples Centre arena for four hours before the start of the rally.
Ballmer told the crowd that years ago he planned to move to Los Angeles after he graduated. But those plans changed when his college buddy, Bill Gates, offered him a job at Microsoft.
He said that he loved Los Angeles and he loved basketball.
"We are going to be bold," Ballmer said. "Bold means we are going to be willing to take risks. If you are not being bold, you are going to be timid.
"We are going to be hard core. Hard core. Hard core. Hard core.
"Nothing gets in our way. Boom. Keep coming. Hard core. The hard-core Clippers that is us," he said.
Ballmer lives in Seattle, Washington, but said he had no plans to move the team to the Pacific Northwest.
"I think Seattle is a town that deserves an NBA team and yet I wanted to move on and get going and this was a phenomenal opportunity," he said. "I love Los Angeles also and that's where the Clippers play."
Sterling, who made his fortune in real estate, had been under pressure to sell the team since the release of a tape between him and his girlfriend V Stiviano. In the recording, Sterling criticises the much younger Stiviano for having her picture taken with black people and tells her not to bring them to Clippers games.
Soon after the comments became public, the NBA slapped the 80-year-old owner with a lifetime ban from the league and began the process of stripping Sterling of ownership of the club.
Forward Griffin said that now that the Sterling saga is over they can begin with a clean slate.
"We genuinely, genuinely want to thank you for your support throughout the season," Griffin said.
"Sometimes you go through a little adversity to become better and that is what happened for me and my teammates."
Clippers fan Eric Guerra said this marks a new era for the team.
"I am very, very happy and very excited for Steve Ballmer and everything that he represents," Guerra said.