By Danny O’Neil
Steve Ballmer is not a villain.
He is, however, a disappointment. At least he is to me after his binge purchase of one basketball franchise for the cool price of $2 billion.
And just like that, this city’s best hope for bringing the NBA back to Seattle bought himself a team in another corner of the country. Ballmer wasn’t our city’s only hope. In fact, Chris Hansen released a statement that he and his remaining partners are still committed to bringing pro basketball back to the city, but that group has now lost its best asset. Ballmer was the richest guy in the group and the best known, someone with the kind of gravity that Seattle could believe would eventually pull the NBA back to town.
And now he’s headed to California where he’ll be handed the keys to an already-made contender, and as understandable as Ballmer’s motivations are, it should be pointed out that he opted for the easier path to satisfaction while leaving Seattle empty-handed.
In that way, he’s not all that different than the hot free agent who leaves town for a better team or a bigger paycheck, and while that doesn’t mean you have to heap scorn on the decision, it doesn’t mean you have to applaud, either.
Ballmer decided he wanted to own an NBA team more than he wanted to own an NBA team in Seattle, and while that might sound like a silly little difference, it’s not.
We’re talking about a community here. One that supported the NBA for 40 years and hoped Ballmer would bring the league back to town, a goal he abandoned by virtue of the Clippers’ purchase.
There will be people who will say Ballmer didn’t really have a choice. After all, he bought that team in Los Angeles only after swinging and missing on attempts to acquire a team that could be relocated to Seattle.
But Ballmer did have a choice. He could’ve remained part of Hansen’s group, and while that would’ve carried the risk that he would never own an NBA team, it also would’ve made him a hero to a city that’s repeatedly been given the business end of the stick when it comes to pro basketball.
Turns out that Ballmer isn’t Seattle’s hoops hero, though, and while you can’t necessarily blame him for putting his own desire to own an NBA team ahead of the chance to bring the sport back to Seattle, you don’t have to praise him for it, either.