LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Thousands of Los Angeles Clippers fans Monday got their chance to meet new team owner Steve Ballmer with a fan festival at Staples Center.
Ballmer officially took possession of the Clippers from former owner Donald Sterling last week for a record sale price of $2 billion.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports doors to the free event opened at noon and saw the first 2,500 fans receive red “We Are Clipper Nation” T-shirts.
Ballmer, wearing a blue Clippers cap, stormed into the Fan Festival, emphatically clapping and moving through the crowd, doling out high-fives to dozens of cheering fans.
“Do we have any Clipper fans here?” Ballmer shouted once he reached the stage. “I can’t hear you!”
The former Microsoft CEO wasted no time in outlining his vision for the future of the team, signaling higher aspirations for the upcoming 2014-14 season beyond last year’s second-round playoff loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We’re going to be bold,” Ballmer told the crowd. “Bold means we’re going to be willing to take risks. … If you’re not being bold, you’re going to be timid. The L.A. Clippers are going to be bold.”
Ballmer was joined by Clippers President of Basketball Operations and Coach Doc Rivers, point guard Chris Paul, forward Blake Griffin, center DeAndre Jordan and other members of the team.
Griffin thanked fans for sticking with the team through the turmoil surrounding Sterling, who was banned after the release of tape-recorded conversations in which he made disparaging remarks about black people.
“We genuinely, genuinely want to thank you for your support throughout the season,” Griffin said. “Sometimes you’ve got to go through a little adversity to become better … and that’s what just happened for me and my teammates.”
Some fans on social media, however, voiced disappointment that the event was being held on a workday. A team official said the date was selected due “many factors…including trying to mesh the schedules of Steve Ballmer and Staples Center.”
“While we are aware that many fans will be at work during this event, there will be several other events upcoming in the near future where Clipper fans will get a chance to meet Steve,” the official said.
Anne Marie and her boyfriend Alfred were among those who arrived early at Staples Center and both had their own reasons for coming out to support their team.
“It’s the beginning of a new era,” said Anne Marie. “It’s a shame that [Sterling] was an owner.”
Alfred, however, said he wants Ballmer to eventually move the Clippers out of their shared home with the Lakers and into their own arena.
“They want have to see the banners that the Lakers got up there ’cause they won’t have to cover the banners,” he said.
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