LOS ANGELES — Steve Ballmer was on stage, answering questions from Los Angeles Clippers fans in a tone of voice that fell somewhere between a scream and a war chant. He talked about technology, business and tradition, but the prompt that excited him the most was the last one.
The question he took was from a fan who has been a season ticket holder since 1988. Sitting in Section 119, the fan had sat through losing season after losing season in his 26 years, so the inquiry made sense. “As a 26-year season ticket holder, what kinds of changes can fans expect to see over the next 26 years?”
Ballmer, the new Clippers owner, smiled, and in a rare moment of tranquility, stayed silent. Some fans began to scream out, “Larry!” a reference to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Returning to his usual noise level, Ballmer lifted the microphone and yelled, “I’ll boldly say that the Clippers will win many, many, many, many more Larrys in the next 26 than in the last 26!”
The fan who inspired four “manys” from Ballmer is Michael Marks, who was sitting in the front row of the rally. After it ended, Marks said he had goosebumps when Ballmer was being introduced, and that the entire spectacle was awesome.
“He was like a rock star,” Marks said. “I’m surprised he didn’t float down from the rafters. He’s going to be great for us.”
Marks actually met former Clippers owner Donald Sterling at a party Sterling threw in Malibu earlier in the year. This was before the tape leaked, before the court cases and before Sterling’s eventual banishment from the NBA. The party did not go well.
Without getting into details, Marks said, “It was not pretty.”
“It’s just a relief, a total relief, to have somebody with his energy,” Marks said. “And obviously the wealth behind him to do what we need helps. He’s going to be like the Steinbrenner of basketball for us.”
Steinbrenner, the late owner of the New York Yankees, owned his team for 37 years. In that span, his teams won seven World Series titles.
The Clippers have never won a championship, but they’ve also never had an owner like Steve Ballmer.