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Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaking at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit in 2017. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has orchestrated plenty of business deals throughout his career. But the blockbuster trade that just turned his Los Angeles Clippers into an NBA title favorite ranks among the best.

In one of the most anticipated free agent moves in NBA history, star forward Kawhi Leonard will sign a four-year, $141 million contract with the Clippers, ESPN reported late Friday.

Ballmer — who bought the team for $2 billion in 2014 — convinced Leonard to join his Clips by helping make another huge trade that brought Oklahoma City star Paul George to the team as well.

Sources told ESPN that Leonard wanted to play with George. Leonard, fresh off an NBA Finals MVP award, was also being courted by LeBron James and the Clippers’ crosstown rival Los Angeles Lakers.

Ballmer and his fellow Clippers execs didn’t want Leonard to team up with James. So they unloaded a bevy of assets to help sign George and ultimately add Leonard to their now-formidable roster.

Now Ballmer, who retired from Microsoft in 2013, gets his best chance yet at winning his first NBA title as an owner.

[Editor’s Note: GeekWire partnered with Steve Ballmer and his USAFacts initiative on the Numbers Geek podcast, exploring the data behind some of the most significant issues facing the country, as well as business and sports.]
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