Steve Ballmer ushered in his ownership era with the Clippers in style on Monday afternoon, staging an offseason pep rally in Staples Center for his new fanbase.
During it, Ballmer was introduced to the crowd with an Eminem song, before delivering a wild and eccentric speech in which the energetic billionaire made his fare share of bold statements.
Moments before predicting ‘many’ championships for the Clippers and moments after enticing the crowd to chant ‘I love Larry (O’Brien)’, Ballmer guaranteed a win over the Thunder in L.A.’s season-opener. And Ballmer, a Seattle resident and Microsoft CEO who was part of a failed ownership bid in 2008 to keep the Sonics in Seattle, also made sure to lob a minor jab toward Oklahoma City in the process.
“I love Seattle,” Ballmer said, while assuring the crowd he had no plans to move the franchise there. “And I’m gonna love beating the old Seattle basketball team when we get our first lick in the first game of the year.”
The video is embedded below. Ballmer’s Seattle comment is at the 3:00 mark:
In recent years, the rivalry between the Thunder and Clippers has ratcheted up.
OKC is an established Western Conference power. The Clippers are ascending in that direction. The two seem set on an annual crash course that began with a dramatic playoff series last season.
Plus, there are some unique player ties — Blake Griffin is from OKC, Russell Westbrook is from Los Angeles, Chris Paul was once an OKC Hornet — and a growing history of on-court altercations (most involving Griffin and Serge Ibaka).
So the matchup is already ripe with intrigue and storylines. But the addition of free agent center Spencer Hawes, another outspoken and proud Seattle advocate who was highly critical of the Thunder’s relocation, and Ballmer as Mark Cuban 2.0 will only add fuel to the growing fire.