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Steve Ballmer, the LA Forum and the Clippers' Identity

The Los Angeles Clippers have been the "other" team in their city ever since moving from San Diego. The Lakers have their extensive history of championships and all-time great players, while the Clippers' history is mostly filled with injuries and disappointments. Even in the last decade, with the Clippers winning consistently, it's still a Lakers town. It always will be.

But Steve Ballmer, who bought the Clippers in 2014, hasn't been shy about wanting to give the organization a building of its own, rather than sharing the Staples Center with the Lakers. And he's bought the old LA Forum with $400 million of his own money to help make that happen.

The Clippers don't plan to play in the Forum, but this purchase makes it easier to build their own arena. The Forum was owned by Madison Square Garden, and James Dolan was against the Clippers' plan because it would cut into the revenue MSG makes from Forum concerts. Now the same company owns the Forum and the new Clippers arena, with SoFi Stadium (home to the NFL's Rams and Chargers) in between the two.

Staples Center is owned by AEG, which owns the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and has a minority share in the Lakers. As a result, the Clippers have long received worse arena dates and less revenue from events in the building. When the Clippers' lease is up in 2024, they'll now have a new home with a dedicated complex.

Any sports market with two teams in the same league tends to have one with a much larger fan base and richer history. There's nothing the Clippers can do to equal the Lakers in Los Angeles. But they do have their own fan base, and the more they can distinguish themselves from the Lakers, the closer they can come to forming a unique identity. It's a tough task, but Ballmer has the pockets to make it happen.



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