LOS ANGELES – On Tuesday, March 24th, the LA Clippers announced that owner Steve Ballmer has reached a deal to purchase the Forum from the Madison Square Garden Company. The arena, formerly known as the Great Western Forum, was home to an enormous amount of memories for James Worthy, Magic Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers, and their fans from 1967-1999.
The deal between CAPSS LLC. and MSG had been in discussion for at least a month, and Ballmer has agreed to pay a whopping $400 million for the 53-year old arena.
A Hall-of-Famer who spent 12 seasons playing in the Forum, James Worthy led the Lakers to three NBA Championships while winning the 1987-88 Finals MVP. Worthy is one of the many Lakers who turned the Forum into the legendary building it is to this day.
The seven-time NBA All-Star made an appearance at a recent Lakers event with First Entertainment Credit Union, and spoke to ClutchPoints about a number of topics, including reports that the arena he made countless memories in could soon be owned by the Lakers’ crosstown rivals: the Clippers.
“Kind of, yeah,” Worthy paused before answering when asked if it’s weird to even think about. “The move took place downtown, but we never forgot The Forum. With the new football stadium, [sports] is coming back.”
Ballmer and his group have been hard at work try break ground on the Inglewood arena project for years now. With the Clippers’ lease at Staples Center ending in 2024, the organization had been eyeing a move a move that year. The group is hoping to start construction in 2021 with the hope that it’ll be ready in 2024.
Purchasing the Forum from the Madison Square Garden company gives CAPSS LLC ownership of the arena while simultaneously resolving litigation surrounding plans for the new NBA arena.
“I like Steve, you know,” James Worthy admitted. “He’s a good guy. He’s gonna build a stadium, try to move in on our fans over there. That’s gonna be tough. But you know, I’m all about moving forward and doing what’s good for the city. If it’s going to help Inglewood, if it’s going to bring more employment and all that kind of stuff, I’m all for that.
Los Angeles has always been a Lakers town, and even though the Clippers have won 25 of the last 31 games against the purple and gold, the lack of a championship has made it tough to start to even make a dent in that. The failure to win a championship over the half-decade stretch where the Lakers have been downright putrid, despite the Clippers making many terrific moves since Steve Ballmer took over, has played a role in why the majority of L.A. is a Lakers town.
“The Lakers brand is what it is,” Worthy added with a smile. “It’s not going anywhere regardless of what he does. So I’m okay with it.”
The Clippers, however, have done everything they can to help the Los Angeles communities while also shaping the kids of this generation towards potentially being Clippers fans. Many of today’s young basketball fans haven’t seen a good Lakers team until this past season. Prior to this season, the Lakers were on their worst stretch in franchise history with 163 wins and 329 losses over a six-year stretch. The Clippers are on arguably their best stretch in franchise history with 363 wins and 211 losses over the last seven seasons.
Acquiring the Forum is arguably the biggest hurdle Steve Ballmer has had to deal with as his group begins the new arena project in Inglewood. The Lakers brand isn’t going anywhere, as Worthy noted, but Ballmer is hoping he can quickly build up the Clippers brand.
The next step in that process is clear: win an NBA Championship.
NOTE: The quotes from Worthy came prior to the finalization of the Forum’s purchase