Once regarded as nothing more than a blip on the NBA radar, the Los Angeles Clippers have come a long way.
Since the dawn of their existence, the Clips have been L.A.'s secondary basketball team, being forced to watch from behind the scenes as their rivals (the Lakers) won Championships in their building.
Even during the "Lob City" era, the franchise struggled to be taken seriously and were never able to find success at the highest level.
In 2021, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are doing everything they can to re-make the team's identity, but it's Steve Ballmer who is really responsible for turning things around.
When Ballmer bought the Clippers in 2014, they had just come off a major scandal involving their ex-owner, Donald Sterling. In the years that followed, the "big three" would fall apart, leaving Ballmer left to pick up the pieces.
Besides his insight and willingness to spend, it's his enthusiasm that has helped transform the culture. And while his over-the-top excitement might seem inauthentic at first, it's about as real as it gets.
Jerry West recently spoke about it during a chat with the media:
When speaking after today's event, Jerry West was asked about Steve Ballmer's passion for the Clippers and the community:
"His enthusiasm is real. There's not one fake thing in him. There's not. I admire him a lot. He's just a unique man. It's been fun to be involved with him. It's been fun to see the progress this franchise has made. More importantly, this is the ultimate gift to his team and the city of Inglewood."
The "ultimate gift" West refers to is the brand new "Intuit Dome" that is set to be finished in 2024. The new arena is the next step to elevating the Clippers franchise, and it will have a profound impact on them moving forward.
For the Clippers, Ballmer is their savior. And, without him, who knows where they'd be.