When it was announced that Steve Ballmer had purchased the Los Angeles Clippers, talks of the new owner possibly moving the team to Seattle began soon after. And rightfully so. Ballmer was a big player in the attempt to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle last season, but a vote by the NBA halted his effort.
But from the mouth of Ballmer himself, he’s not interested in moving the Clippers to Seattle or any other city longing for a NBA team.
“I’m keeping the team here in Los Angeles,” said Ballmer in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve decided to have a team in Los Angeles. The whole proposition, my aspirations and dreams for the Clippers, can only be realized in Los Angeles. It’s a great city.”
In theory a move to Seattle makes sense. The Clippers would be able to escape the shadows of the ultra-successful Los Angeles Lakers all while another big market city in Seattle re-gains a NBA franchise, years after losing the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City. But financially it doesn’t make sense.
While the franchise hasn’t been home to lots of success since its move to LA in 1984, the Clippers biggest draw has been just that: being in LA. It’s how they’ve attracted the few big name players that has played for the organization. It’s a big part of how Chris Paul landed with the franchise. Does he “force” his way to the Clippers if they’re located in elsewhere? It’s hard to replicate the draws of a city such as Los Angeles. You can create a championship team anywhere with some luck (see OKC, SAS). You can create an environment where everyone is happy with the circumstances (see MEM, POR). But when it comes to re-building what the city of Los Angeles provides to marquee athletes, mainly advertisement, fame, they aren’t capable of such.
To simply put it, if Seattle is going to get another NBA team it won’t be from relocation of the Clippers and Ballmer has made it his business to make sure nothing such as that happens.
“I love Seattle, my kids grew up in Seattle, we will continue to have houses in Seattle. All of that, and I will still spend time also, a lot of time and have a place down in Los Angeles, but the Los Angeles Clippers are and will remain the Los Angeles Clippers.”