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Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer speaks at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit last year. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Steve Ballmer has established himself as a man who is as passionate about basketball today as he was about software during his days as CEO of Microsoft. A new story from The Ringer shines a revealing spotlight on where the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers may have first showcased his competitive hoops spirit.

Zach Schwartz writes that he was a member of a Boys & Girls Club basketball team called the Bellevue Beavers that was coached by Ballmer in 1999. The kids were third graders and Ballmer was about to begin a 14-year run as head of the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant.

While we’ve come to recognize the billionaire Ballmer for his sideline enthusiasm in the three years since he took over ownership of the Clippers, Schwartz (No. 2 in the photo above) reveals six things most fans probably wouldn’t know about his old coach’s basketball past:

  • The Beavers won and won big. The team was stacked with good players, according to Schwartz, and Ballmer apparently had little concern for the “mercy rule” when games got “ugly.”
  • Parents didn’t let the kids know that Coach Ballmer was one of the most successful businessmen in the world. Schwartz said it didn’t matter, because “Steve was and is an incredibly modest man.”
  • Ballmer liked nicknames and referred to a defensive star as “the Shadow” and another kid named Blake as “Blakey Baby.”
  • Ballmer’s dedication was legendary. He never missed games, even if it meant flying a red-eye back from China. Schwartz said the impact on kids led to many of them playing sports at the collegiate level.
  • The team was a reflection of the coach — “gritty and defensive minded.” They finished practice with hustle drills and featured an offense that was ahead of its time.
  • Ballmer got the kids practice time in the gym at Microsoft, a sight that made adults using the facility take notice. The team won the championship and celebrated with a pizza party.

Way to go, coach.


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