The L.A. Clippers took one more step closer to entering a new chapter this week when Donald Sterling and his lawyer announced they'd agree to sell to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. There's still a long road to go before the Clippers can officially change hands, but one person paying especially close attention to these events is Darrell Bailey — better known as Clipper Darrell, the team's biggest fan.
Off-Ramp Producer Kevin Ferguson talks with Clipper Darrell in front of Staples Center in Downtown LA.
Did you meet Donald Sterling before all this?
"I met him several times. In 2006, I went to the airport to tell the team we were going to do this in game seven of the playoffs, and Donald Sterling put me on the team flight with the team. And I spent the night with the team at the Ritz Carlton. And he took me to dinner earlier that night. It was me, Donald Sterling, Elgin Baylor, [Mike] Dunleavy... a bunch of his staff members."
What kind of guy was he?
"I mean, he was a great dude. We were talking, having a good conversation. I found that you share your dessert with rich people! But he was a cool dude, but that was in 2006. So, what is this, 2014? That was a long time ago. Maybe things have changed."
What was your reaction when you heard the tape that got leaked? To basically hear that he didn't want you at his games, to me that would be a pretty heavy blow.
"Oh, yeah. It was a blow, man. I had anxiety attacks, I was depressed. There are two things I can do in life and I can forget about all my problems. And one place is church, and a clippers game. That was it. When you take away somebody's sanctuary, it's like 'Man, that hurts. What did I do to you for you to do that?'"
Did you even want to go to the games when the news came out? There was talk about the team maybe boycotting some playoff games.
"I was following the players' lead. The players had my back in my time of need. Whatever they did, I was going to support what they did. If they boycotted, I was going to boycott. But if they were going to go out their on that court, I was going to go into the stands and do my thing like I usually do."
What was your reaction when you heard that Steve Ballmer was interested in the team?
"I didn't know who Steve Ballmer was, to be honest with you. So once he put his bid in, and I'd seen that he was going to take over the team, I did my research on him. And he seemed like an energetic, fun-loving guy. And that's the type of owner that I said, whoever took over... I wanted an owner like Mark Cuban. You know what I'm saying? An owner that was passionate about the team. That's what I see in Steve Ballmer, because he's going to be a fan of the team... And I could see him jumping up and down, baseline, and cheering them on and everything else. So that's going to be fun to see."
He's pretty famous for jumping up and down, too.
"Exactly! I was loving it, man. Everybody was tweeting at me, they're telling me 'Hey Darrell, you got competition now.' I said 'Man, that's a beautiful thing, now.'"