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The Clippers deal and what the market will bear

 Steve Ballmer, the least interesting player in the court “game” Donald Sterling is playing with soon-to-be ex Shelly and the NBA.

Steve Ballmer, the least interesting player in the court “game” Donald Sterling is playing with soon-to-be ex Shelly and the NBA.

Why is everybody up in arms about sports nut Steve Ballmer buying the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion?The team, people say, is worth $750 million at best. It’s all about the television rights jacking up the price in the second biggest market, others say.

I say it’s only about one thing – what the market will bear. It’s like the art market. (Or the stock market.) You pay $95 million for a Van Gogh, it’s worth $95 million. Now is a Van Gogh worth $95 million? Actually, I’d have to say that since he was a great artist – a great dead artist who can’t make any more paintings – then a Van Gogh is priceless. But we don’t live in a world of aesthetics. We live in a world of insurance policies – so much if your roof is damaged, so much if your windshield is cracked. Everything has its price, which is not the same as its value.

If you want something badly enough and you’ve got the cash, then it’s worth it to you to overspend. And so the Clippers are worth $2 billion. (Which should make the New York Yankees very happy.)

Steve Ballmer, though – the overly enthusiastic soccer dad and former Microsoft CEO – is really the least interesting aspect of this story. (But then, I never thought Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg were interesting either.) No, what’s fascinating is the power play between the divorcing, Clippers-owning Sterlings – racist remark-spewing Donald and wife Shelly – for control of the trust that controls the team and thus its sale.

She’s seeking to prove him mentally incompetent. (He’s apparently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.) He’s suing the NBA for antitrust, breach of contract, you name it. But if there’s no collusion – and I’m still not entirely convinced that the Sterlings aren’t in cahoots with one another – then his real beef at this point isn’t with the NBA . 

It’s with the soon-to-be ex in yet another game men play.