For NBA, courting Steve Ballmer could be a strategic move

Los Angeles Clippers hold up signs referencing the Donald Sterling situation before the game with the Golden State Warriors in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

The NBA hopes it's just made a game saving shot.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer plans to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion dollars. The deal -- which must still be approved by the NBA -- would come after the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he would force current owner Donald Sterling to sell after he made several racist and vulgar remarks in a recorded call.

There's a photo making the rounds of Steve Ballmer at a playoff game earlier this month, with Commissioner Adam Silver in his ear. Wharton Business School Professor Kenneth Shropshire says it's easy to imagine Silver making his pitch to Ballmer right then.

"If you think about the kinds of people you would speak to, Ballmer would certainly be on your list to court," he says.

That's because Ballmer's worth $20 billion dollars, making him one of the richest people on the planet.

Only one of the richest people on the planet can afford to pay a record $2 billion dollars for an NBA team, a deal the league hopes is sweet enough to discourage Sterling from tying up the sale in court.

Going forward, Emory University's Mike Lewis says the NBA would be psyched to have a deep-pocketed guy own the Clippers.

"You know they are sort of the New York Mets or the Chicago White Sox. They are the second team in that city. I think it's really attractive to the league to essentially have two really strong franchises in a major city like LA," he says.

Disposing of Sterling and the Clippers going deep into the playoffs -- for NBA owners that would be fantastic.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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