Yao Ming and Grant Hill Both Reportedly Eyeing Purchase of Los Angeles Clippers

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 23, 2014

HOUSTON - MARCH 11:   Grant Hill #33 of the Orlando Magic shoots the ball over Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets on March 11, 2007 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Update by Zach Buckley at 1:15 p.m. ET on May 24, 2014

Yao Ming's appearance as a potential candidate to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers surprised a lot of people—including the big man himself.

"I just heard about it in the morning my time," Yao said in an email to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. "I really don't know where this news came from."

Initially dubbed a "wildcard suitor" by Grantland's Bill Simmons, it sounds like Yao is even less than that. The former Houston Rockets center could be keeping his plans private, or he may in fact have no plans at all.

At most, he looks like an extreme longshot in a bidding war expected to have no shortage of participants.

---End of Update---


Update by Stephen Babb at 6:45 p.m. ET on May 23, 2014

According to the latest report, Yao Ming isn't the only former NBA star looking to get in on purchasing the Los Angeles Clippers. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that, "Sources told ESPN.com on Friday that Grant Hill and Yao Ming are working separately to line up investors to lodge bids for the Clippers when the team is ultimately made available."

Hill played 29 games for the Clippers in his final NBA season. Per Stein, "Sources say Hill has made it known within league circles that he is in the process of putting a consortium together."

He's currently working as a TV analyst for Turner Sports.

---End of Update---


There's a sea of potential suitors clamoring for the chance to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers.

It would be easy to get lost in the crowd, unless one literally towered over the competition with a 7'6", 310-pound frame.

Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is reportedly doing just that, via Grantland's Bill Simmons:

Yao, who spent nine seasons in the league before injuries forced his retirement, joins a laundry list of reported suitors waiting for the Clippers to officially hit the market.

That time may be coming very soon.

TMZ Sports reported that embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling had "surrendered control" to his wife Shelly Sterling. Shelly, along with her lawyer, have reportedly been "secretly meeting" with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his legal team to "resolve the dispute amicably."

Nov 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling (left) and wife Shelly Sterling attend the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Thunder 111-103. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA

ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne said that Donald gave Shelly control of the team so she could negotiate a sale of the franchise:

Once the Clippers are put up for sale, that's when Yao and his team can get involved. Plus any and everyone else with some spare billions lying around, it seems:

There's still plenty of red tape to cut before this bidding war can start, though.

For one, the Sterlings don't have complete autonomy over this sale. Any potential transaction (including this transfer of ownership) would have to be approved by both the NBA and its other owners, as noted by Bleacher Report's Howard Beck and TNT analyst David Aldridge:

Shelly Sterling had initially said she planned to fight the league to retain an ownership stake in the team, during an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters. Her sudden willingness to sell does not come without some strings attached, as Brent Schrotenboer and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported:

There are contingencies in the agreement, a second person with direct knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. Shelly Sterling has agreed to sell the team as long as she retains a minority interest in the Clippers, according to the second person, who also requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

The league has maintained that the removal of Donald Sterling as an NBA owner would also include the removal of all parties with an ownership stake.

The league had previously scheduled a June 3 hearing for the charges that Donald Sterling damaged the league with the racist comments he made that were recorded and made public. A vote would follow the hearing where the other team owners could decide the fate of Sterling's ownership, with a three-fourths vote required to force him to sell.

Feb 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and wife Rochelle Sterling (Shelly Sterling) react during the game against the Houston Rockets at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

During a press conference at the draft lottery, Silver did say he was open to the idea of the Sterlings orchestrating the sale themselves, per USA Today:

I'll only say that Mr. Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers. Mrs. Sterling as I understand it through a trust owns 50% of the team, as well. It is their team to sell, and so he knows what the league's point of view is, and so I'm sure if he wanted to sell the team on some reasonable timetable, I'd prefer he sell it than we go through this process. … I'm open to that.

Again, any transaction would need league approval.

Whenever the Clippers are formally put up on the auction block, there will be no shortage of bidders.

Yao certainly won't get lost in the crowd, but his money will need to be as tall as he is. It may take billionsyes, plural—to cast the winning bid.