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Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Clippers score their biggest victory

By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers have never held a rally at Staples Center.

Ever since the arena opened 15 years ago the Clippers have been nothing more than silent tenants, watching the Lakers, Kings and Sparks win titles, raise championship banners and retire Hall of Fame jerseys.

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer officially became the Clippers' owner Tuesday after weeks of legal tussling.

There has been nothing greater than a win or two in the second round for the Clippers to celebrate.

Until now.

Moments after the NBA announced Steve Ballmer's record $2 billion purchase of the Clippers officially closed on Tuesday, the Clippers announced they would be holding a rally at Staples Center on Monday to introduce Ballmer. Doc Rivers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will be there. Clippers Spirit dancers will be throwing #ItsANewDay shirts at the crowd. Clipper Darrell will no doubt be dancing through the aisles in his red and blue suit. And Ballmer may or may not be running around on stage, screaming at the crowd as he was prone to do when he gave speeches at Microsoft.

It will serve not only as the first-ever Clippers rally at Staples Center, but as the greatest day in Clippers history.

It's a history not only void of postseason success, but worse yet, saddled with the burden of Donald Sterling's ownership for the past 33 years. It was an ownership already tainted by housing discrimination lawsuits and multiple lawsuits from employees ranging from age and race discrimination to sexual harassment. All of this took place years before his racist rants were recorded and disseminated, forcing the league to ban him for life.

Celebrating any kind of Clippers success was always bittersweet because their success was his success. Anyone who knew Sterling or took the time to look into his sordid past would never root for such a man to succeed and enjoy the fruits of victory.

Donald Sterling
The doom and gloom of Donald Sterling's tenure as owner of the Clippers is mercifully a thing of the past.

That's why it's only right that Sterling will be tucked away in one of his many palatial estates dotting Los Angeles on Monday, out of sight and out of mind, while the rest of the city celebrates the Clippers' new owner.

There has always been talk of the "Clipper Curse" over the years. Not only with their on-court success, or lack thereof, but with draft busts like Benoit Benjamin and Michael Olowokandi, and with career-altering injuries to potential stars like Danny Manning and Shaun Livingston.

Every curse has an origin. The Cubs have the Billy Goat. The Red Sox had Babe Ruth. And with the Clippers, it was always Sterling. When Phil Jackson was asked about it four years ago, he said he didn't believe in curses but he believed Sterling's past actions had something to do with his team's struggles.

"I'm of that generation that believes in karma," Jackson said. "I do think there is karma in effect, ultimately. But I can't proclaim anybody else's karma. That's their own making. If you do a good mitzvah, maybe you can eliminate some of those things. You think Sterling's done enough mitzvahs?"

When Jackson was told about the humanitarian awards Sterling took full page ads in the paper to congratulate himself on winning, he smiled.

"Yeah, but how about all those other incidents we have on file?"

The Clippers were always karmically doomed with Sterling in charge. The negative energy permeating through their offices and games was palpable. Truth be told, no one was proud to work for Sterling. They did it because it was a job they loved and it was a paycheck to support their families, and the old man in recent years was in the shadows enough to allow them to go about their lives without embarrassing them.

Of course, that all changed four months ago when recordings of his racist rants went public. It brought to light what most within the organization always knew but tried to forget -- that they were working for a bad man. Team employees privately said they hated working for Sterling but they wanted to work for a professional team in L.A. bad enough to forget who signed their checks. Players said they played for each other and not the owner. It was an internal "us against him" model that was always doomed to fail.

Those days became nothing more than bad memory when Ballmer became the new owner of the Clippers. For the first time in over three decades, Clippers employees have an owner they are proud to work for and maybe some newfound karma that will lead them to another rally in the future.

"This is an amazing new day in Clippers history," Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Rivers said. "I couldn't be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization. I am already inspired by Steve's passion for the game, his love of competition and desire to win the right way, and I know our players and fans are going to be inspired as well."

Time will tell what kind of owner Ballmer will be, but from all accounts he seems like a good guy, which is more than could be said about the Clippers' former owner.