Steve Ballmer, Clippers Throw Shade at Lakers, Staples Center at Dome Groundbreaking

The Los Angeles Clippers won't be able to move to their new home for at least three years but they've already started burning bridges.

The Clippers and owner Steve Ballmer threw shade at Staples Center and the rival Lakers and their fans while breaking ground on the Intuit Dome, their future state-of-the-art arena in Inglewood, California on Friday.

Staples Center has hosted Clippers and Lakers games, as well as the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, since it opened in 1999, yet the Clippers felt they have been treated like second-class citizens in Los Angeles since moving north from San Diego in 1984. Ballmer, who purchased the team after the NBA banned previous owner Donald Sterling for life in 2014, is hoping to change that image and will spend a reported $1.8 billion on the new arena.

The Intuit Dome is not expected to be completed until 2024, which is also when the Clippers' lease expires at Staples Center. But the Clippers took a jab at the building, which was funded and managed mainly by the Kings' ownership group AEG, in a video unveiling the dome Friday.

Home is LA. Home is the @IntuitDome.

— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 17, 2021

"This is no hockey arena," said Clippers forward Paul George while narrating. "It's where basketball is played and watched on five different courts."

Ironically, the Clippers will aim to craft their new identity in the same city the Lakers built their enduring legacy. The Lakers called the Forum in Inglewood home for 32 years and reached the NBA Finals 11 times and won six championships while playing there. The team's perennial dominance, and arena's penchant for hosting celebrities, turned the Lakers into LA's favorite team and one of the sports world's most enduring brands.

Steve Ballmer
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer took aim at the rival Lakers on Friday. Here, he roots on the Clippers against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

But the Clippers have recently chipped away at the Lakers' dynasty, mostly by becoming one of the NBA's most consistent teams since Ballmer spent a record $2 billion to buy the team seven years ago. After posting just five winning seasons between 1984-2014, the Clippers have made the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons and finished over .500 each year. They are coming off their deepest playoff run, reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2021.

Ballmer spoke of the Clippers' prospects and raised eyebrows by taking direct aim at the Lakers, and especially their fans.

"We're building our own identity," Ballmer told ESPN, "and if the other guys feel a little threatened — the other guys' fans, I mean — that's OK. It means we're doing good."

Ballmer, whose net worth is roughly $100 billion, has put more than $5 billion of his own money into the Clippers — including the cost of the team, the cost of the new arena plus the $400 million in cash he paid for the still-standing Forum to remove legal challenges that the arena's previous owner Madison Square Garden had made blocking the dome. He's confident in his team's ascent, and emergence from the Lakers' shadow, and believes the new arena will expedite both.

"We're good now, and we're going to be good year in and year out," Ballmer said. "We're going to build our own building, more of our own identity, and I think some of the fans on the other side ... [will say] 'What, you dare to question our supremacy?' No, we do."

George and Clippers star forward Kawhi Leonard attended the groundbreaking, which included dancers and a drumline. They appeared unmoved by the entertainment, according a viral video posted by Los Angeles-based radio host Arash Markazi.


— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) September 17, 2021