There aren’t many moment in professional basketball that one would call heartwarming. Exciting, yes. Controversial, definitely. But heartwarming? Not so much.
That’s why I found a recent interview with All-Star point guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers so refreshing. Paul was reflecting on a dinner with new team owner Steve Ballmer, the high-energy former Microsoft CEO who shelled out $2 billion for the team, pulling it out of last season’s media muck surrounding the racist comments of former owner Donald Sterling. Ballmer’s over-the-top enthusiasm for the game and encouraging, hands-on style have already dramatically changed the tone and tenor of the Clippers organization from the inside out — reportedly, all for the better. Whatever the ultimate results in the win-loss columns this year, the club should reap the benefits of his new leadership.
But that’s not the heartwarming part.
Asked about his conversations with Ballmer, Paul mentioned a comment made over the dinner table that had personally impressed him most. The new owner let his team know that he would not — repeat, not — be in attendance at all the home games. The reason? Ballmer’s own son, a 10th grader, plays basketball twice a week, and being at those games were the higher priority. “Having a family of my own,” Paul said appreciatively, “that was the best thing I heard all night. It shows how committed he is to his family. You can tell a lot about a person just seeing how they interact with their family. And to know that…he puts his child before us, it shows really what our organization will be about.”
That’s what warmed my heart to hear. I hope all the fans in Clipper Nation, indeed, throughout the NBA, are listening.