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Basketball: Boisterous Ballmer rallies Clipper fans into frenzy

A fist-pumping, high-fiving Steve Ballmer enthusiastically vowed to run a "hard core" NBA franchise that will win championships during a rally Monday (Aug 19) to introduce the new owner to Los Angeles Clipper fans.

LOS ANGELES: A fist-pumping, high-fiving Steve Ballmer enthusiastically vowed to run a "hard core" NBA franchise that will win championships during a rally Monday (Aug 19) to introduce the new owner to Los Angeles Clipper fans.

Wearing a blue Clippers' cap and clapping constantly, the former Microsoft chief executive shouted until he almost went hoarse as he moved quickly through Fan Festival crowd then took the stage at the rally celebrating his new ownership of the club. "Do we have any Clipper fans here? I can't hear you," he screamed in a raucous style he was known for at Microsoft. "I couldn't be more honoured or excited or fired up to be here."

The US tech tycoon Ballmer paid a record US$2 billion (S$2.49 billion) for the Clippers in a sale that was confirmed by an American judge last week. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan joined Ballmer on the stage.

The name of disgraced owner Donald Sterling, who bought the team in 1981 for US$12.5 million, wasn't mentioned once during the rally.

Some of the fans had been waiting outside Staples Center arena for four hours before the start of the rally. Ballmer told the crowd that years ago he had planned to move to Los Angeles after he graduated. But those plans changed when his college buddy, Bill Gates, offered him a job at Microsoft.

He said Monday that he loves Los Angeles and he loves basketball. "We are going to be bold," Ballmer said. "Bold means we are going to be willing to take risks. If you are not being bold, you are going to be timid. We are going to be hard core. Hard core. Hard core. Hard core.

'HARD-CORE CLIPPERS'

"Nothing gets in our way. Boom. Keep coming. Hard core. The hard-core Clippers that is us."

Ballmer lives in Seattle but said he has no plans to move the team to the Pacific Northwest. "I think Seattle is a town that deserves an NBA team and yet I wanted to move on and get going and this was a phenomenal opportunity," he said. "I love Los Angeles also and that's where the Clippers play."

Sterling, who made his fortune in real estate, has been under pressure to sell the team since the release of a tape between him and his girlfriend V Stiviano. In the recording, Sterling criticizes the much younger Stiviano for having her picture taken with black people and tells her not to bring them to Clippers games.

Soon after the comments became public, the NBA slapped the 80-year-old owner with a lifetime ban from the league and began the process of stripping Sterling of ownership of the club.

Forward Griffin said Monday that now that the Sterling saga is over they can begin with a clean slate. "We genuinely, genuinely want to thank you for your support throughout the season," Griffin said. "Sometimes you go through a little adversity to become better and that is what happened for me and my teammates."

Clippers fan Eric Guerra said this marks a new era for the team. "I am very, very happy and very excited for Steve Ballmer and everything that he represents," Guerra said. "I know he has wanted a basketball team for some time now. He is not going to move us to Seattle, we are going to stay here in Los Angeles and win a championship."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also spoke to the crowd, telling them the team has a bright future. "We are ready to give the NBA a run for their money. These Clippers are on the move," Garcetti said.

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