MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It appears that the NBA is moving closer and closer to removing the Sterling family from its exclusive club.  Shelly Sterling, who is now the lone trustee of the Sterling Family Trust that owns the Los Angeles Clippers, announced late Thursday night that she had signed an agreement to sell the franchise to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

Donald Sterling purchased the Chippers for $12.5 million back in 1981 and he and his family have worked hard to transform the franchise from one mired in mediocrity for many years to the star-studded contending team they are today.

“I am delighted that we are selling the team to Steve, who will be a terrific owner,” Shelly Sterling said in a statement released following the announcement of the sale. “We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise. I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success.”

Ballmer’s bid of $2 billion was higher than any other offer made to Sterling. Following a failed attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings and move the franchise to Seattle last year, Ballmer wasn’t going to let another NBA team slip through his fingertips.

Though Ballmer has many connections to Seattle and has fought in the past to bring basketball back there (he’s offered more than once to put up his own money to build a new arena), he has already said that he intends to keep the Clippers in Los Angeles.

That would be a wise move on Ballmer’s part as the Clippers already play in the nation’s second-largest media market and have worked hard to establish their own fan base in a town that has been watching the Los Angeles Lakers win championships for decades.

The Clippers also extended their lease with the Staples Center last year, which keeps them in Los Angeles through June of 2024.

“I will be honored to have my name submitted to the NBA Board of Governors for approval as the next owner of the Los Angeles Clippers,” Ballmer said in a released statement. “I love basketball and I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win, and win big, in Los Angeles.”

If only it was that easy.

The NBA still has to sign off on this, and as of now the June 3rd hearing and vote on whether to strip Donald Sterling of his ownership of the franchise is still on.

Following the announcement of the Clippers sale, the NBA released this statement.

“Commissioner Silver has consistently said the preferred outcome to the Clippers proceeding would be a voluntary sale of the team. Shelly Sterling advised the NBA last night that an agreement had been reached with Steve Ballmer, and the NBA Advisory/Finance Committee met via conference call this morning to discuss these developments. We await the submission of necessary documentation from Mrs. Sterling. In the meantime, the June 4 special meeting of the NBA Board of Governors remains as scheduled.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said from the beginning that his preferred option would be for the Sterling’s to sell the team on their own.   If the league can avoid having to hold a vote and potentially remove Donald and Shelly from ownership, it’s widely viewed that it would be best.

However there is still the issue of Donald Sterling maintaining that he is a co-owner of the franchise.  His attorneys contend that as a co-owner Sterling must give his consent before any deal can be reached, and that he won’t be doing so.

“Sterling is not selling the team. That’s his position,” said Bobby Samini, Donald’s attorney. “He’s not going to sell.”

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out.  As of now, we’ll have to wait and see if Shelly Sterling and Steve Ballmer submit the proper paperwork to the NBA, and if so what the league will do next.

All the Clippers players, coaches, employees and fans have to do now is wait, and continue hoping for a swift ending to this ongoing saga.



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