There’s a new sound effect at Clippers games.
It comes from a 58-year-old man who recently bought the team. Steve Ballmer attended his first home game as owner Wednesday, and the tech tycoon made his presence known immediately.
He wore a bright yellow and navy blue striped shirt, sat baseline near the Clippers’ bench, and went beserk.
During the game he screamed and cheered so loudly that reporters sitting about 20 rows up, near midcourt, could hear him clearly. Even Clippers Coach Doc Rivers was surprised by how fervently Ballmer cheered.
“Was that him screaming?” Rivers asked. “I honestly thought it was somebody doing an impression of Steve Ballmer because I could hear his voice.”
When Ballmer was shown on the big screen in the third quarter he started clapping so intensely that it looked as though he might injure himself.
In the fourth quarter, the Clippers Spirit team gave Ballmer a Clippers T-shirt, socks or towel. Ballmer turned around, threw it into the audience, and started cheering.
“He’s got energy; energy is good,” Rivers said. “I said to the players, ‘I’d rather kindle a fire than start one.’”
The Clippers previous owner, Donald Sterling, definitely started a fire last season when an audiotape featuring him making racially insensitive remarks was released to the public. During the Clippers’ playoff run, the players had to field questions about Sterling and racism instead of concentrating on their play.
Sterling also didn’t have the friendliest courtside demeanor. He infamously heckled Baron Davis as he shot free throws during the 2009-10 season.
In a column Blake Griffin recently wrote for the Players’ Tribune, Griffin likened Sterling to a “weird uncle” while comparing Ballmer to a “cool dad.”
After the Clippers’ 108-105 win Wednesday, all Rivers could do was marvel.
“Damn, I wish I had some of that energy,” he said.