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ballmerclippers22Any Seattle basketball fans hoping that Steve Ballmer would bring the Los Angeles Clippers up to the Emerald City can stop dreaming.

ESPN reporter Ramona Shelburne, who has been following this story closely ever since current owner Donald Sterling had his racist comments leaked online, tweeted out statements early Friday morning from both Ballmer and Donald Sterling’s wife, Shelly.

Put simply, it looks like Ballmer is indeed paying $2 billion to the Sterling’s for the Los Angeles Clippers franchise — the second-largest amount of money ever paid for a North American sports team, and far greater than the previous NBA high ($550 million for the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year).

On Thursday, numerous reports indicated that Donald Sterling needed to sign the contract in order for the deal to be completed.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case. ESPN reports here that because Donald Sterling was declared mentally incapacitated, it allowed Shelly Sterling to become the sole trustee of the Sterling Family Trust.

Meanwhile, here is a statement from Ballmer, who beat out two other investor groups that had bid $1.6 billion and $1.2 billion:

Earlier reports noted that the NBA board of governors, who must vote to approve the deal, will require that Ballmer keeps the team in Los Angeles. That makes sense for Ballmer from a financial outlook, with a much more lucrative market in California versus Washington and a team that ranked seventh in league attendance this season.

Sorry, Seattle hoops fans — it may be a while before the NBA ever makes a comeback to a city that saw its team leave town to Oklahoma City in 2008.

In fact, it may be at least three years before the possibility of a franchise in Seattle is fathomable. Seattle sports radio host Mitch Levy, who’s been in close contact with Ballmer since the former Microsoft CEO tried to bring the Sacramento Kings to Seattle last year, had this to say on Thursday evening:

Ballmer, a Detroit native who resides in the Seattle area, will undoubtedly be spending more time in sunny Southern California now that he just spent 10 percent of his net worth on an NBA team there.

As my colleague John Cook outlined this morning, this could have implications far greater than just basketball.

If Ballmer ends up spending his retirement in a place other than Seattle, it would be a big blow to the tech region here. Many people assumed that after retiring from Microsoft, Ballmer would stick around Washington and play a part in the community via philanthropy or — as many in the startup community hoped — angel investing. (See: Seattle entrepreneur starts petition asking Steve Ballmer to create $500M startup fund).

Of course, Ballmer could still do that. But his absence will certainly affect his ability to really make a mark on the tech scene here in Seattle.

Sources tell ESPN that Ballmer is moving to Los Angeles, although when exactly is unclear. He still has a teenage son that just entered high school in the Seattle region.

Here are a few good reads if you’re interested in learning more about this crazy story:

  • Andrea Chang at the LA Times has this dramatic tale of her visit to Sterling’s home on Thursday afternoon.
  • James Rainey, the LA Times reporter who first broke this story on Thursday, answers common questions you may have about the deal.
  • Michael McCann, a sports law expert over at Sports Illustrated, has a good list that the NBA needs to check off for the deal to go through. Also, McCann notes how having Ballmer as an NBA owner will ultimately be a good thing for Seattle.

Update, 10:35 a.m. Friday: 

Here’s a statement from the NBA acknowledging Thursday’s events:

Update, 10:55 a.m. Friday:

Chris Hansen, the San Francisco hedge fund manager who partnered with Ballmer in the duo’s attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and bring them to Seattle last year, issued this statement on Friday morning:

First I would like to congratulate Steve Ballmer on his apparent successful bid for the Los Angeles Clippers. Steve’s passion for basketball and commitment to the NBA will make him a great owner and strong asset for the league.

I would also like to assure Seattle fans that my remaining partners and I remain committed to bringing the NBA back to Seattle. The environmental review process for the Seattle Arena is nearing completion and we will soon be in a strong position to attract a franchise back to the Emerald City.​

Update, 2:15 p.m Friday

Donald Sterling is now suing the NBA for $1 billion dollars, but it doesn’t look like it will affect Ballmer’s purchase.

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