Update by Zach Buckley at 1:15 p.m. ET on May 24, 2014
"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:
One more wildcard suitor: hearing Yao Ming is putting together a group of wealthy Chinese investors to make a serious run at the Clips.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 23, 2014
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."
ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne said that Donald gave Shelly control of the team so she could negotiate a sale of the franchise:
Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife Shelly to negotiate a forced sale of the Clippers, source tells ESPN.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 23, 2014
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:
3 Clipper suitors to watch: Guggenheim/Magic group, Rick Caruso (owns the Grove, lost on Dodgers), Patrick Soon-Shiong (owns 4% of Lakers).— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 23, 2014
Wildcard Clipper suitors: Larry Ellison (biggest bankroll), David Geffen (brings LeBron potential), Casey Wasserman (tight with A. Silver).— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 23, 2014
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:
Reminder: NBA's other 29 owners have total authority to accept/reject sale to any proposed new Clippers owner. Not entirely up to Sterlings— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 23, 2014
Sterling "transferring" team 2 his wife is irrelevant. The NBA has to approve any transfer of controlling ownership before allowing a sale.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) May 23, 2014
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.
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 billions—yes, plural—to cast the winning bid.