By Tarrian Rodgers
There may be no team in sports history that needed a bigger organizational facelift than the Los Angeles Clippers. The three decade reign of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been highly publicized. Not only were the Clippers one of the worst teams in sports. But, Sterling was ousted and currently serves a lifelong ban from the NBA. After an audiotape revealed a racist tirade telling his then mistress that he didn’t want her bringing “blacks” into his arena.
For Clippers fans and as an organization April 29, 2014 feels like a distant memory now. That was the first game the Clippers played after the Sterling debacle. It was a day that thousands of Clippers fans were dressed in all black displaying shirts denouncing the Clippers now-former owner. Everyone had something different to say about Sterling, the team and the NBA's response to the controversy.
Donald Sterling's explosive comments sent shockwaves throughout the world. Racism unfortunately is still prevalent in many parts of our society and it really shouldn’t be. So too fast forward to Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Just about every Clippers fan who left the Staples Center after the team's Fan Festival had nothing but glowing reviews for their new owner.
If you were to ask anyone about Steve Ballmer they will tell you he is an enthusiastic guy whose energy is infectious. That clutter of the past was gone, replaced by a clarity of vision, purpose and passion brought to bear by Ballmer. His round of high fives and chest bumps through the crowd on the way to the podium couldn't have been more different than what Clippers fans came to expect from Donald Sterling in his public courtside appearances.
Now, entering his sixth year as chairman of the Clippers Ballmer holds a 250-160 (.610). Ballmer passionately believes in leading the Clippers forward with a focused on-court success, a fan-first philosophy, and consistent improvements in all aspects of team business which will positively impact the community.
On the court he has kept that promise by last offseason pulling off the signing of two time NBA Finals MVP Kwahi Leonard and pulling off a blockbuster trade for mult-time NBA All-Star Paul George. The team even went as far as remodeling their uniforms. The old jerseys were navy, red, and white. They featured the letters ‘LA’ in a striped pattern. The new jerseys are a simple black and white design with the words “Los Angeles” written in old English font across the front.
For the new design, the Clippers turned to famous Los Angeles graffiti artist Mister Cartoon. The colors were chosen because they complement the artist’s style. Cartoon is known for his work designing billboards, video games, athletic wear, and even cars. The jerseys are said to represent the fabric of LA’s art district which brings more of a relatable element to the team.
Off the court along with his wife Connie, Ballmer serves as Co-founder of Ballmer Group, which supports efforts to improve economic mobility for children and families across the United States who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty. They focus this philanthropic work deeply in Los Angeles, Washington state, and southeast Michigan where Steve grew up.
Ballmer seems to have the fire and the drive to cement the Clippers' back on the NBA map as a legitimate force. Time again, he uses the word "hardcore" to describe his passion for making the clippers a better organization. Which for the Clippers and their fans could never say about their former owner...what was his name again?