This could get confusing. The Clippers have a new No. 1 fan, even though their top devotee never left.
Fortunately, super-fan Darrell Bailey, a.k.a. Clipper Darrell, is not possessive when it comes to titles.
“Being anybody’s No. 1 fan is earned, not given,” Bailey said in a phone interview with The Times on Tuesday, when asked about erstwhile owner Shelly Sterling’s self-ascribed designation as “Clippers No. 1 fan” that came as part of her sale of the team to billionaire Steve Ballmer.
“But it doesn’t even bother me, man. If Shelly wants to be the No. 1 fan, I’ve got 40 [Clippers] suits, so I’ll give her one and let’s have a party. I’m willing to share.”
As part of the sale agreement, Shelly Sterling also retained the title of “Owner Emeritus” and received 10 premium tickets, two courtside seats, six parking passes and three championship rings if the Clippers win an NBA title.
Bailey said he understood Ballmer giving Sterling the title of top fan. “For $2 billion,” Bailey said, “I would have wrote it on there” in the sale agreement.
But Bailey said he did not feel Sterling deserved the courtside seats, which could create unease among players and fans at games.
“I feel by her sitting there, it’s always a reminder of Donald Sterling,” Bailey said. “If you want to do anything, give her a suite, let her entertain all her friends in a suite. It makes it easier for all the players and the fans to enjoy the game.”
Bailey said he was thrilled by Ballmer’s introduction Monday at a welcome rally at Staples Center, where the new owner exchanged high-fives, fist bumps and chest bumps with fans.
“People were coming up to me after the [rally] saying, ‘Man, he acts just like you,’ ” said the high-energy Bailey, who is known for wearing half-red, half-blue suits and lilting side to side while yelling, “Let’s go, Clippers, let’s go!” during games.
“For me to have my own owner like a Mark Cuban is fantastic,” Bailey said, referring to the visible and highly proactive Dallas Mavericks boss. “I can see [Ballmer] coming into the stands and doing a ‘Let’s go Clippers!’ chant” during games.