updated 05/01/2014 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/01/2014 AT 11:40 AM ET
If Donald Sterling is compelled to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, the list of potential buyers has more stars than their roster.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. wants the whole team. Matt Damon wants a tiny piece.
Billionaires, entertainers and athletes alike announced their intentions to pursue the Clippers with varying degrees of seriousness Wednesday, proving the longtime losers will be quite a prize if the NBA is able to wrest control of the team away from Sterling after his lifetime ban for racist remarks.
Winfrey led the list, and the media mogul is already bringing in her friends.
“Oprah Winfrey is in discussions with David Geffen and Larry Ellison to make a bid for the Los Angeles Clippers should the team become available,” spokesperson Nicole Nichols confirmed in an email.
The Clippers spent the last three decades rotting in the shadow of the glamorous Lakers, who piled up championships while the lowly Clips only racked up losses. With Sterling’s ouster, the Clippers suddenly became the most attractive team in town to wealthy fans lining up for an unlikely chance to seize control of a Hollywood sports franchise on the move.
David Carter, the executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute, identifies multiple factors contributing to the Clippers’ extraordinary value.
“Interest in the team results from the combination of NBA teams being rare assets that are seldom available for purchase, the location of this particular team, and potential owners’ belief that revenue streams linked to rehabbing the brand and participating in future revenue linked to a new TV deal all make the team very attractive to prospective buyers,” Carter said.
Combs, Rick Ross and Snoop Dogg all aired their interest, as did longtime Clippers fan Frankie Muniz and Damon, who told CNBC he’d like to be a “super-tiny minority investor.” Fans also got in on the frenzy, opening campaigns on Kickstarter and Crowdtilt to pool their resources for the club.
A vocal segment of the NBA’s social media following immediately started a campaign to move the Clippers to Seattle, a basketball-loving city that has been without a team since Clay Bennett moved the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008.
The Clippers’ association with Sterling’s racist remarks could have been crushing to their prestige and value, but they don’t seem to be a problem if Sterling is no longer associated with the club.
The Clippers have captured the imagination of Los Angeles’ counterculture, the transplants and contrarian fans who aren’t interested in the Lakers’ bandwagon. They’re also attracting more of an international following with each highlight-reel performance by Chris Paul and dunking virtuosos DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, who coined the phrase “Lob City” to describe their daredevil style of play.
“We’re proud of this team,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “We’re proud of our city, and we want to make them proud of us.”
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