There are two favorites in the Western Conference for when the NBA resumes play at the end of July — the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers have been one of the most successful teams in the history of the NBA, while the Clippers were a laughingstock for years. However, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has spent millions to make the Los Angeles Clippers — not the Lakers — LA’s team.
Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014
Donald Sterling had owned the Los Angeles Clippers since 1981. However, during the 2014 playoffs, TMZ published voice recordings of Sterling making racist comments to his mistress, V. Stiviano, according to ESPN.
“In your lousy f***ing Instagram, you don’t have to have yourself walking with black people,” Sterling said to Stiviano, according to ESPN. “It bothers me a lot that you want to promote, broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Days later, the NBA banned him for life. Then, in August 2014, Ballmer, the Microsoft co-founder, bought the Clippers for $2 billion, according to Forbes.
During the years that Sterling owned the team, the Clippers only went to the playoffs four times from the 1981-82 season through 2010-11. They, additionally, only made it past the First Round once.
Since Ballmer has taken over as the owner, the Clippers have only missed the playoffs once. Additionally, this season the Clippers are second in the Western Conference with a 44-20 record.
The Lakers have been LA’s team over the Clippers for years
As mentioned above, the Clippers have been awful over the years. Since moving to LA in 1984, the Clippers have ony been to the playoffs 11 times in total. They have also never made it to the Western Conference Finals or NBA Finals.
Before moving to LA, the Clippers had just made it to the playoffs three other times but were the Buffalo Braves in those years. They still did not make it past the Conference Semifinals in those seasons.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have been one of the most successful franchises in the history of the NBA. The Lakers spent 12 seasons as the Minneapolis Lakers but became the LA Lakers in 1960. Including their time in Minneapolis, the Lakers have won 16 championships, 11 while in LA, and have made 61 playoff appearances.
Winning championships has ultimately led to more fans around the country and in the city of Los Angeles, but the great players have also helped tremendously. The Lakers have had some of the greatest players in NBA history play for them, including Kobe Bryant, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Magic Johnson, Elgin Baylor, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, and Wilt Chamberlain. Now they have one of the two greatest players to ever live in LeBron James.
The Clippers’ list of players is not nearly as impressive. Their top players are from more recent times in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. They do, however, finally have an excellent roster this year with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Ballmer is paying millions to make the Clippers LA’s team
In addition to helping build a really talented roster of coaches and players, Ballmer has made the Clippers a big part of the LA community.
According to Bleacher Report, Ballmer has donated millions to nonprofits in communities of color. He and his wife, Connie Snyder, also donated to the LA Parks Foundation to renovate 350 courts across the city. Additionally, after people from the Inglewood community were not too happy about the team’s proposed arena plan, the Ballmers pledged to invest $100 million into the community. This includes $75 million toward affordable housing.
Here is what Bleacher Report’s Joseph Bien-Kahn wrote about Ballmer and the Clippers.
“The Clippers can never out-glamor or outclass the Lakers, but they can certainly outspend LA’s favorite team when it comes to improving the lives of working-class Angelenos,” Bien-Kahn wrote. “It’s a path to become the franchise that truly represents ‘the people in the back.'”
Ballmer’s money is helping build a Clippers fandom in LA. If Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — the best duo in franchise history — can lead the team to an NBA championship, though, they could certainly become LA’s team. At least for the time being.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference