From the moment the NBA banned Donald Sterling for life, the big names and their big wallets jostled for position to buy the Clippers. Magic Johnson was in. Oprah Winfrey was in, with fellow billionaires Larry Ellison and David Geffen. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest man in L.A., was in. So was Rick Caruso, the developer of the Grove and an unsuccessful bidder for the Dodgers.
David Price was in, too.
“I want to buy a part of the Clippers!!!!” the Tampa Bay Rays’ ace tweeted. “Like 1% or maybe a little less.... I would have the best seats ever!!”
Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said he would love to go in with Price, who invited his 210,000 Twitter followers to support the bid.
“I had a couple ones for $5,” said Price, who faces the Angels on Sunday at Angel Stadium. “Somebody actually stepped up and wanted to donate $1,000. That probably would have gotten him nosebleed seats for two games. It probably would have been just me and C.J.”
Price and Wilson would be no match for Oprah and Co. But, if Price’s dream is minority ownership and the best seats in the house, dare to dream.
“That would be awesome,” he said. “If they wanted to sell me 1% of an NBA team, I’d probably do it. I have no idea what 1% would cost.”
The Clippers would figure to sell for about $1 billion.
“$10 million? That’s too rich for me,” Price said, laughing. “That’s a whole lot of golf.”
Nothing much about the Clippers these days is a laughing matter. Sterling and the NBA are gearing up for a protracted legal fight. The NBA claims the courts should have no say because Sterling agreed to abide by league rules that enable the league to kick him out. Sterling can claim the league is applying those rules arbitrarily and unpredictably, and he can ask a judge to let him explore how the NBA has disciplined other owners. If a judge says yes, the Clippers could be in ownership limbo for years.
That NBA players might all boycott the Clippers in the meantime sounds a bit farfetched.
Price is a big basketball fan, an African American, and a star player eligible for free agency next year. If he played basketball instead of baseball, could he say that he would not sign with the Clippers as long as Sterling remained the owner?
“It would have to depend on the situation,” Price said.
He said he hoped NBA players would consider Sterling a factor in deciding where to sign, but he conceded that would not be the only factor, and not simply because the Clippers might offer more money.
“Some people would want that lifestyle — living in L.A., playing downtown and, if you get a chance, you’ll see a movie star,” Price said. “It just depends where people want to live their life.”
For now, he extends his sympathy to the Clippers players.
“I couldn’t imagine going through what they’re going through,” he said.
Price has a Doc Rivers story to tell. Price met the Clippers’ coach at a golf tournament several years ago, when Rivers still was coaching the Celtics. Not long after, Price found himself in Los Angeles for a few days and sent Rivers a text, asking whether the coach could help him and his father get tickets to see the Clippers play the Miami Heat. Price said he had no idea whether he would hear back at all.
Rivers texted back six minutes later, with two front-row tickets.
“I looked at the price on the tickets,” Price said, smiling. “It blew me away. It was unreal. My dad still talks to him all the time.”
Price could find his way back to L.A., and not just as a courtside spectator. The Dodgers looked into trading for him last winter, and they might do so again this summer, particularly if the Rays sink deeper into last place in the American League East.
In any case, the three-time All-Star and 2012 AL Cy Young winner could hit free agency next fall, at 30. The Rays won’t pay that Price, but he insists he has not envisioned himself in Dodger blue, or any other color.
“I am a Tampa Bay Ray,” he said. “I put all my time, effort and love into this.”
This is a weird world. If Sterling does sell, the ownership group that outbid all comers to buy the Dodgers could do the same to buy the Clippers. That would enable the Dodgers to lure Price with a free-agent contract that could include what he wanted out of the Clippers in the first place — “1% or maybe a little less,” remember? Price could get a small stake in a basketball team coached by a respected acquaintance, to play for a baseball team owned by an NBA legend.
Sterling could help make the Clippers and Dodgers better, all with one decision — selling the basketball team to the man he calls his friend, Magic Johnson.