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.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Payroll & Accounts Assistant

£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week