The Los Angeles Clippers have been sold for $2 billion.
A year or two ago, that would have been the intro to a joke on Jay Leno's final season as "Tonight Show" host.
But this year, the joke is on all of us.
Donald Sterling became the biggest sports villain who hadn't [allegedly] killed someone since Jerry Sandusky after those tapes made their way to TMZ. Boy Wonder NBA Commissioner Adam Silver won over any would-be critics by quickly and decisively banning Sterling for life from the league and set in motion the process to force Sterling to sell his team.
Then Sterling began marshaling his legal forces. His estranged wifestepped in and said she wanted to take over the team. The NBA, it appeared, was headed for a prolonged and potentially embarrassing legal land war over the sale.
Then, as quickly as the Sterling story took hold of the national consciousness, it was doused Thursday with the news that Microsoft honcho Steve Ballmer was going to pay $2 billion in cash for the NBA's second-most-popular team in Los Angeles. Ballmer and Shelly Sterling have a contract in place for the sale of the team. Donald Sterling, TMZ tells us, has been declared "mentally incompetent," which cleared the way for Shelly to make the deal.
It still has to be approved by the league. And Sterling, still, reportedly plans to sue the league anyway.
Many believe Sterling has been mentally incompetent for years. For instance, it appears he never recognized passage of the 13th Amendment or the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
But the real story here is that someone who is not crazy or mentally incompetent was willing to spend $2 billion on the L.A. Clippers. Ballmer is worth about $20 billion, but $2 billion is still real money. It's doubtful he dropped 10 percent of his net worth on a pro basketball team just as a public service.
Think about that. The Clippers don't even have their own arena. The nomadic franchise has played in four different cities [remember Anaheim] and has had two names. Although loaded with potential, the Clippers have never won a championship or even reached the conference finals. Never. Their lifetime winning percentage is .382.
Ted Williams hit .388 in 1957 when he was 39 years old.
The Clippers have won two straight divisional titles and are hotter in L.A. these days than Kobe's beleaguered club. But are they worth $2 billion?
The Milwaukee Bucks were recently sold for $550 million to a group led by Wesley Edens, he of the very attractive 18-year-old blonde daughter who stole the internet the night of the draft lottery. That deal is still contingent upon a new arena. If I was Mallory Edens' dad and dropped 550 million bucks on the Bucks, I'd put the team back on the market today for $950 million and tell my daughter to shut down her Twitter account.
You can pretty much blow up all those franchise valuations dutifully listed in Forbes Magazine's website. They're all irrelevant today. The second basketball team in the No. 2 market in the United States just sold for $2 billion, less than a month after its owner was basically fired by the NBA. This was a fire-sale that resulted in the team being sold for about twice what we were told it was worth.
You're free to guess what a marquee franchise like the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, or even Seattle Seahawks would fetch if it was for sale today. Take whatever that number is and add about 50 percent to your highest guess.
Consider the Red Sox. They have been a part of New England's psyche and soul for more than 100 years. They play in the oldest, most venerable, and most uncomfortable for anyone over 5-11 and 180 pounds major-league stadium in US major pro sports. There's only one Red Sox. No, John W. Henry did not pay me a bonus to write that. It's a simple fact.
The Red Sox own their venue and control much of the valuable real estate that surrounds it. They also possess a cable TV network which is guaranteed nearly 800 hours of live baseball programming every season, not to mention countless pre- and post-game shows.
The fact that teams like the Red Sox and Yankees are unique adds exponentially to their value. When it comes to their potential sale, all you need is one billionaire, or group of financially stable multimillionaires, to make the deal.
As of March, Forbes had the Red Sox valued at $1.5 billion. If we're to believe that figure is still relevant, you have to accept that your Boston Red Sox are worth 25 percent less than the L.A. Freaking Clippers.
The one-time Bearded Band of Brothers and America's Most Beloved Ballpark worth less than "LOB City." This isn't a knock on Forbes. They do a terrific job overall. But this does point out the foolishness of trying to assign value to anything that's not for sale, or for sale at least as far as we know.
The marketplace does, or at least should, determine what something is worth.
This Clippers' saga and Ballmer's purchase also illustrates another truism in this business. That being: "No one really knows what's going to happen, regardless of how loud they scream on television or how condescending their prose."
One recent example: About 90 minutes before the Red Sox announced that they had signed Stephen Drew, one of the city's most-esteemed baseball reporters and one its most-esteemed columnists spoke on one of the city's top-two sports radio talk stations about Drew. They stated without reservation or doubt that the Red Sox were sticking with Xander Bogaerts at short and that any possible deal for Drew wasn't going to happen. This was stated as a matter of fact and matter-of-factly.
While some may have wanted Drew to come back, the actual news of his reunion with the Red Sox was a "stunner" to anyone who had tried to follow the story via print, broadcast, social, or digital media.
Ditto for the Tyler Seguin trade to Dallas last July 4.
No one knows what the Patriots and Bill Belichick are going to do. Ever.
And not even Danny Ainge knows at this stage what he's going to do with those precious No. 6 and No. 17 picks.
Speculation is great. I'm full of speculation, among other things. But to report, as stated fact, something will happen without verification from a legit, trusted source does everyone a disservice.
Expect to see lots of team owners across the wide world of sports reconsider whether or not they'd consider selling today after the whopping size of this Clippers deal. Despite the news this week that the economy shrunk one percent in the last quarter, sports franchises are spending, salary caps are set to rise indefinitely [at least in the NFL], and franchise valuations based on prices on the open market continue to soar.
The last NFL team to be sold, the Cleveland Browns, went for $1.05 billion in the summer of 2012.
Johnny Football had yet to take snap for Texas A&M.
$4 billion for the Patriots?
$5 billion for the Red Sox?
$6 billion for the Yankees?
Sounds about as crazy as Stephen Drew playing shortstop again for the Red Sox.
The OBF Column is written by award-winning journalist, Bay State native and Boston.Com columnist Bill Speros. Got a news tip, want to let him know directly what you think, have a complaint or compliment about his "aggressively relevant" content or hate people who speak about themselves in the third person, hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or hit him on at his
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