Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer heckles Stephen Curry, fails

Commentary: Ballmer thinks he can distract the world's best NBA shooter. It was reminiscent of his battles with Apple.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers

He screams. Curry scores.

Victor Decolongon / Getty Images

When Steve Ballmer was CEO of Microsoft, he wasn't a shy, retiring flower.

He would scream loudly on stage. He would express his opinions forcefully and often. 

Who could forget his disdainful dismissal of Apple's iPhone as a laughable object?

Now, though, he's the owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers. And he still seems to believe that he can defeat those competitive forces by shouting at them.

Please forgive my apparent (actual) bias, but I was at last night's Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Clippers game at the Oakland Arena when something blessedly entertaining occurred. (Disclosure: fan of the home team.)

During the third quarter, Warriors star Stephen Curry stole the ball and had the chance of a beautifully open three-point shot.

There, right behind him at courtside, sat Ballmer. He heckled Curry, in an attempt at what some tech people call disruption.

I imagined I could hear the same sort of heckling he used to once offer Steve Jobs. And, just as then, the heckling didn't work.

Ballmer's glum, angry face after the shot softly sank into the net is a glorious reminder of what Microsoft once was. A fairly loud company that, under his leadership, appeared to falter at least as often as it succeeded. 

Amusingly, Curry made reference to the incident after the game.

"He's almost like another coach on the opposite side," he said of Ballmer. Curry explained that Ballmer was "chiming in to see if he could throw me off my game."

The Clippers didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

It's instructive, though, how Ballmer has fared in the NBA. He isn't the only tech mogul to have invested in the hop, skip and ego trip that is NBA ownership. 

Dot-com veteran Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen owns the Portland Trail Blazers.

Moreover, the Warriors owner, Joe Lacob, is a partner at famed VC company Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. 

Oddly, though, Lacob is slightly less voluble during games than is Ballmer. (Well, everyone is.) 

Coincidentally, perhaps, in the almost four years in which Ballmer has owned the Clippers, the Warriors have been to three NBA championship games and won two of them.

Moreover, they've played a brand of basketball that has, at times, bordered on the artistic.

The Clippers? Well, they have enjoyed quite some internal turmoil, with erstwhile stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul disappearing to Detroit and Houston respectively. As for the championship game, they've not been there at all.

It's odd how management styles might transfer themselves to outside concerns, once tech moguls move away from tech.

I can't help thinking that, under Ballmer, the Clippers will follow Microsoft-like lines. 

They'll make a lot of money, but, for all the noise, they may never be true winners.

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