- Associated Press - Friday, May 30, 2014

As the successor to Donald Sterling in the NBA’s billionaire club, Steve Ballmer has assured himself of goodwill aplenty.

Heck, Kim and Kanye would’ve been a major upgrade over the guy Ballmer is replacing.

What’s harder to understand is why someone who clearly has a nose for business would spend at least twice as much as he probably should have to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that shares its arena with two other teams (bad for revenue), was a laughingstock for much of its existence (little brand loyalty), and will forever remain second fiddle to the city’s other NBA team (Jack Nicholson may show up for the occasional Clippers playoff game, but the Lakers still run that town).

Is this A) simply a $2 billion ego trip for Ballmer, whose knows he’ll become far more recognized as the owner of the Clippers than he ever was as the CEO at Microsoft?

Or is this B) part of a longer-range plan to get his hands on a franchise that could be moved to his adopted home in Seattle sometime down the road?

For now, we’ll go with A.

Eventually, the correct answer might be C.

Both of the above.

Ballmer has surely overpaid with his winning bid of $2 billion, nearly four times as much as the franchise was valued at by Forbes just a few months ago and more than double even the loftiest of projections. If approved by the NBA’s other owners, a mere formality unless Ballmer has been secretly recorded delivering a racist rant of his own, it will tie last year’s sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the highest price ever paid for a sports team.

Many people scoffed at the Dodgers’ new owners, led by Magic Johnson, saying they doled out far more than the baseball franchise was worth. But at least there was some reasoning behind the outlandish price, since it involved one of the most recognizable names in all of American sports, a franchise with a long, proven history of success. Plus, the deal included a pretty valuable piece of real estate, Dodger Stadium, not to mention a stake in the parking lots that surround the ballpark, a massive source of income for the team and a potential windfall for future development.

Next to that, the Clippers‘ deal looks very much like a financial boondoggle, allowing Sterling to walk away from the NBA an even richer man than he was before his inane ramblings about black people were recorded for the whole world to hear. Ballmer is even richer than Sterling - with a net worth estimated at nearly $20 billion - but there’s no way he was thinking in dollars and cents when he made his offer for the Clippers.

Funny how the chance to own a sports team does that to otherwise astute people.

Granted, the Clippers are no longer the laughingstock of a franchise that managed six winning seasons in its first 41 years of existence. They have two big stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They set a franchise record with 57 wins this season. They’ve even acquired a catchy nickname, Lob City, becoming an automatic sellout in a city that is always looking to embrace the latest fad.

But the Lakers, even coming off their worst season since moving to the City of Angels in 1960, remain NBA royalty.

The Clippers are a losing season or two away from fading back into obscurity.

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