In light of racist comments Donald Sterling made during a recorded conversation, today the NBA placed a lifetime ban on the Los Angeles Clippers owner and said it will act quickly to force the 80-year-old to sell the team.
That’s made at least a few people in Seattle wonder: Will former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen now make an attempt to purchase the Clippers and move them up to the Emerald City?
Ballmer and Hansen came close to buying the Sacramento Kings franchise one year ago with plans to build a brand new sports arena, but they ultimately lost out after an NBA committee blocked the $625 million deal. Still, both men have expressed continued interest in bringing the NBA back to Seattle and undoubtedly have the money to do so.
However, it’s unclear how exactly Sterling will be removed from his owner’s seat and how the process of bringing on a new ownership team will take place. First, the NBA needs 75 percent of its owners to request that Sterling no longer own the Clippers.
“I fully expect to get the support I need from the other NBA owners to remove him,” new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said today.
ESPN radio host and Northwest native Colin Cowherd spoke with 710 ESPN Seattle earlier this week and said it’s a realistic possibility for Ballmer and Hansen to make a bid for the Clippers.
“Ballmer is a man of incredible wealth, he’s respected and he would be all in,” Cowherd said. “He’s absolutely as viable as any other candidate.”
Basketball is something the former Microsoft CEO deeply cares about and it’s not surprising that he’s still part of this investment team. Ballmer was a regular at Sonics games before the team departed for Oklahoma City in 2008 and also was part of another investment group that tried to keep the team here.
Some reports have noted that NBA legend and Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Magic Johnson is also interested in purchasing the Clippers. There are likely numerous other high net worth individuals who would want to own the team. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the bidding war will exceed $1 billion:
Several groups with desire to purchase Clippers are already stepping forward, with a bidding war expected to exceed $1 billion for Clippers.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) April 29, 2014
And there’s this from ESPN reporter Zach Lowe, who notes that the NBA would be responsible for acquiring a new owner:
League sources say Silver/league, not Sterling, would control Clips sales process in event Silver gets the required 3/4 vote to force it.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 29, 2014
Yet it’s tough to see the NBA wanting to move the Clippers out of Los Angeles, despite the fact that there are two NBA franchises in the city. The Clippers have an adequate arena and ranked seventh in league attendance this season.
Again, how exactly this process will take place and how Sterling will be involved — or if he’ll take legal action — is unclear. Regardless of what happens, this entire situation is bringing the “NBA to Seattle” talks back to life again.
“Seattle is affluent, smart, civil — really a perfect place for the NBA,” Cowherd said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle inherits or purchases an NBA team in the next decade.”
For the record, we don't honestly think the Clippers will move to Seattle. But anything to put the Sonics back in the national conversation.
— Sonicsgate (@Sonicsgate) April 29, 2014
Update, 9:05 p.m.:
Look who showed up to the Warriors vs. Clippers playoff game tonight in Los Angeles…
— Jonathan Mergy (@jmergy) April 30, 2014