On Monday, the Clippers introduced new owner Steve Ballmer to a group of 4,500 diehard Clippers fans at Staples Center for the team’s fan festival.
After Ralph Lawler, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Doc Rivers each took turns thanking the crowd and the rest of Clipper Nation for their support through the Donald Sterling saga, it was time to meet the man of the hour. Ballmer lived up to his reputation as a legendary hype-man, working the crowd like a pro and amping the fans up at any chance he got during his nearly 20-minute speech.
The best moment, hands down, was his introduction, in which he came out and high-fived and chest-bumped fans while “Lose Yourself” by Eminem blared over the loudspeakers. It was the perfect Ballmer moment, encompassing his energy and passion, and will likely live down in YouTube infamy, as Ballmer’s other exploits have. Here’s a video, in case you haven’t seen it already:
I was at the pep rally and discussed it over at FOX Sports West, focusing on Ballmer’s apparent self-awareness and what that could mean moving forward:
LOS ANGELES — Steve Ballmer doesn’t know as much about NBA basketball as he thinks he should.
The new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was cut from his high school team as a freshman, and he doesn’t have much experience playing the sport that he just invested $2 billion in. Despite attending “100-plus basketball games” last season — most of which were for his son’s high school team — and having a burning passion for the game, Ballmer doesn’t consider himself an expert on in-game strategy or navigating the treacherous salary cap.
But what Ballmer’s comments and overall performance at Monday’s Clippers Fan Festival at Staples Center showed arguably is just as important, if not more, than his deep pockets and love for basketball: a sense of self-awareness.
His decision to greet fans with high-fives and chest-bumps, as Eminem’s classic pump-up song “Lose Yourself” blared in the background, was exactly the type of grandiose display one would expect from a Ballmer-led pep rally. He didn’t adhere to the standards of normal business or ownership conduct — he stretched the boundaries as far as he could and then some.
Over the next 20 minutes, Ballmer went on to predict a victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder — “the old Seattle team,” as he called it — on opening night; he promised to build a championship winner by any means necessary, even if it means spending into the luxury tax; and after a 26-year season ticket holder asked about what to expect with the future of the franchise, he proudly guaranteed that the future of Clippers basketball would be much better than the past.