Ballmer bought the franchise from disgraced former owner Donald Sterling earlier this year for a record $2 billion. He said he believes the Clippers have the necessary elements to become a team with national appeal.
"Yeah, I think we have an opportunity (to be America's team)," he says from the edge of his seat, his pitch on the rise yet again. "But we've really got to light 'em up. We've got incredible superstar guys at the helm in Blake (Griffin) and Chris (Paul) and DJ (DeAndre Jordan). We're playing in a great market. We have this unfortunate situation (with Sterling), and yet all that's done for the forward-looking thing is put the Clippers on everybody's road map.
Everybody wants this story to end with the guys who had to live through this succeeding!"
The release in April of an audio recording of Sterling making racist comments and his subsequent banning from the NBA led to the Clippers' sale, and Ballmer capitalized. His purchase of the team was finalized in August.
As Los Angeles's owner, Ballmer said he plans on having the franchise give back to the community more in the wake of the controversy brought by Sterling and his documented discriminatory housing practices. He also said he doesn't plan on micromanaging the team after signing head coach and team president Doc Rivers to a five-year extension.
"If I didn't have great faith and confidence in Doc, (it wouldn't work)," Ballmer said. "But really, me saying, 'Should we play Player A instead of (Player) B?' No, I can't do stuff like that. That's what Doc is in the job for, and he's really good."
- Ben Estes