Steve Ballmer is in the news a lot these days, and for all the right reasons. For those of you who live under a rock, Ballmer has saturated the Twittersphere and internet because of his incredibly awkward and uncomfortable press conference introducing newly acquired stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Despite the newfound fame, at least in the sports world, many people only know Ballmer on a superficial level — he’s the unnaturally energetic, partly bald guy that owns L.A.’s least popular NBA team.
So let’s take a dive into the weird, wired world of Steve Ballmer and learn more about the man himself. Let’s rid our minds of his sweaty armpits, forget his strange tirades/dances at Microsoft conferences (don’t worry, more on that later), and appreciate the man for all he’s worth ($52 billion, but who’s counting?).
Ballmer, a Michigan native, attended Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1977 with a B.A. in economics. At Harvard, Ballmer befriended his dorm neighbor and future boss, Bill Gates. The two hit it off and became members of the prestigious Fox Club, an all-male social club for future billionaires.
After graduating, Ballmer took a job at Procter & Gamble, which he held for two years. Following that, Ballmer attended Stanford Graduate School of Business to get his MBA. However, less than a year into the program, Ballmer left to join Microsoft for $50,000 a year. Hired as the startup’s 30th employee in 1980, Ballmer was a key figure in the nascent company’s growth. By 1998, Ballmer was president of Microsoft, and by 2000, he was elevated to CEO. In 2014, Ballmer, after successfully keeping Microsoft in the Stone Age, retired with an estimated net worth of $20 billion.
Sometimes, things just fall into place, and in 2014, all of Ballmer’s lucky stars aligned. The Clippers, regarded as the worst franchise in the NBA, were for sale after the NBA strong-armed former owner Donald Sterling into selling the team following his racist remarks and unacceptable behavior.
That opened the door for the newly retired Ballmer to place a $2 billion winning bid on the team. Turns out not a lot of people are willing to drop that kind of money on the Clippers.
Although Ballmer removed himself from Microsoft, Microsoft couldn’t be removed from him. When he took over the Clippers, Ballmer announced that all communication devices, computers, and tablets would be Microsoft products. In Ballmer’s world, Apple would cease to exist, despite how much easier their products are to use.
As Ballmer said in 2014, “And Doc kind of knows that’s a project (phasing out good technology). It’s one of the first things he said to me: ‘We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren’t we?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, we probably are.’”
RIP usable technology in the Clippers locker room.
Ballmer is the human form of the Energizer Bunny. The man is full tilt all the time. No amount of Monster Energy drinks or uppers could give us mortals the energy Ballmer exudes on a daily basis. However, the energy that has become his trademark wasn’t always present.
“My mother had to calm me down so I wouldn’t lose it on the way to Hebrew school because it was a different environment. I wouldn’t go to some people’s houses when parents were around because I was just too nervous,” Balmer told the Los Angeles Daily News. “I could barely speak the first time. My voice cracked the first time I ever spoke in business school.”
While many stories surrounding Ballmer are apocryphal, the one that recounts the time he yelled “Windows” enough times to rip his vocals cords is truth and nothing but the truth. At a Microsoft conference in Japan, the enthusiastic Ballmer screamed so many times that he damaged his vocal cords enough to warrant surgery. One would think Ballmer would have learned from his painful mistake, but, if anything, his yelling has only increased. After all, he has to be heard over the hundreds of Clippers fans that dot STAPLES Center.
Zune vs. iPhone
Back in 2007, David Lieberman of USA Today interviewed Ballmer on the prospects of the iPhone, and that’s when Ballmer said one of the stupidest things in recent memory. “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share,” he said. “No chance.” And Ballmer wasn’t done.
Lieberman followed that up with a question about MP3 players, to which Ballmer exclaimed, “My 85-year-old uncle probably will never own an iPod, and I hope we’ll get him to own a Zune.” If you forgot or have no clue what a Zune is, we can’t blame you. For those of you who want to know or remember, it was an MP3 player that flamed out faster than Brian Bosworth and Greg Oden combined.
Steve Ballmer could be a man of many nicknames, but unfortunately for him, only one nickname has really stuck — Ballz. With a “z.” Rather than chronicling the entire sequence of events that gave rise to Ballmer’s unflattering nickname, we’ll send you to Deadspin, where they have the entire situation clearly mapped out. But to summarize, Ballmer, in a series of leaked emails, was exclusively referred to by Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and her top adviser, Linda Rambis, as “Ballz.”
Surprisingly, Ballmer’s unrelenting enthusiasm couldn’t be dampened. Ballmer told ESPN that the “email thing was weird. Let me just say it was weird. I don’t know what they were trying to do precisely.” Neither do we. He continued, “With my last name, I won’t say I haven’t been called that before in my life. It is not the first time I have heard that.” Hey, at least he’s honest with us.