Go hardcore! How former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer plans to help his ailing LA Clippers basketball team

Mr Ballmer hopes to revive the beleaguered NBA franchise through his trademark positive energy

Los Angeles

As the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer was famous for delivering wildly enthusiastic corporate speeches that might have been better suited to a sports coach. Now, as the incoming owner of the beleaguered Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, he has found his new niche. On Monday, during a rally at the Staples Centre in Downtown Los Angeles, Ballmer addressed Clippers supporters and colleagues with a pep-talk every bit as passionate as his Microsoft keynotes.

The 58-year-old emerged on stage to the sound of Eminem’s Lose Yourself, high-fiving ecstatic fans. He gave out his email address to the crowd – insisting they call him Steve, not Mr Ballmer. In one of the more heated passages of his 13-minute speech, he promised that under his ownership, the Clippers would be “hardcore”. He said: “Something knocks us down and we’re going to get back and keep coming and coming and coming and coming... Hardcore, baby! Nothing gets in our way, BOOM! Keep coming. Hardcore. The hardcore Clippers, that’s us.”

This is the same Steve Ballmer whose appearances at Microsoft events could be so brash and bombastic that they often went viral. In one famous example, his blue shirt drenched in sweat, he clapped as he chanted the mantra: “Developers, developers, developers, developers.” In another, he yelled maniacally: “I. Love. This. Company!” On Monday, he offered variations on that theme: “I love basketball,” he cried. “I love Los Angeles!”; “I love this team!”

While Mr Ballmer’s public persona is undoubtedly energising, some of his employees have said that in private, his boundless enthusiasm can also become a fiery temper. In a sworn affidavit, one former Microsoft worker, Mark Lucovsky, revealed how Ballmer reacted in a 2004 meeting when he told him he was leaving to work for Google. The then-CEO allegedly threw a chair across the room, shouting, “I’m going to f***ing kill Google!” (Ballmer has since described the account as a “gross exaggeration”.)

Clippers fans will be heartened to learn, however, that their new owner’s loyalty is not an act. Ballmer grew up in Detroit, where his father was a manager at the Ford headquarters; he still drives Ford cars. He lived in the same dorm as Microsoft founder Bill Gates at Harvard, and dropped out of an MBA to join his college buddy as the company’s first business manager in 1980. Twenty years later, he was appointed its second CEO.

Critics of his reign have said he lacked his predecessor’s vision, and that he presided over a decline in Microsoft’s influence in the age of the internet and the iPhone. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson that Microsoft had become “mostly irrelevant” in the 21st century. “I don’t think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it,” Jobs said.

Ballmer left his CEO role at Microsoft in February as the world’s 34th richest man, with an estimated fortune of approximately $20bn. Today he resigned from Microsoft's board - ending a 34-year association with the company - but remains its biggest shareholder.

Owning a basketball team was a long-held ambition, and last week he finalised his purchase of the Clippers for $2bn (£1.2bn), four times the previous record price for an NBA franchise.

At the fan rally, he recalled a quote from the former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said, “Optimism is a force multiplier.” And Ballmer is nothing if not optimistic. The Clippers franchise, which began in 1970 as the Buffalo Braves, has never won the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy. At one point, Ballmer shouted: “I’ll boldly say that the Clippers will win many, many, many, many more Larrys in the next 26 [years] than in the last 26!”

The opportunity to buy the Clippers arose when its previous owner, real estate mogul Donald Sterling, was banned by the NBA after a tape emerged of him making racist remarks to his girlfriend.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
Written protest: Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, has sent an open letter to the Culture Secretary
books
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss