Yao Ming said he isn’t interested in buying the Los Angeles Clippers, spurning reports that he was putting together a group of Chinese investors to make a run at the franchise.
The Clippers will be for sale after owner Donald Sterling was taped in a racist rant, admonishing a mistress for being seen in public with black men. He was subsequently banned for life by the NBA and forced to sell the franchise.
Though there were initially reports that Sterling could fight the decision, it was reported yesterday that Sterling would allow his wife to sell the team.
The Clippers have attracted a number of potential buyers including Magic Johnson, a team that includes Oprah Winfrey, and Yao Ming.
But when he was contacted this weekend, the former Houston Rockets center denied the reports.
“I just heard about it in the morning my time,” Yao said Saturday via email. “I really don’t know where this news came from.”
Yao Ming had tried to own an NBA team before. The owner of the Shanghai Sharks, Ming had expressed interest in buying the Milwaukee Bucks but backed off when owner Herb Kohl said keeping the team in Milwaukee would be a requirement for a new owner
But it could be possible that Yao Ming, Oprah, and anyone else interested in the team might not have it all to themselves. NBA commissioner Adam Silver left open the possibility that wife Shelly Sterling could retain a minority share.
“I’ll only say that Mr. Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers. Mrs. Sterling as I understand it through a trust owns 50 percent of the team, as well,” Silver said. “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.”
If Yao Ming were to become an owner — whether with the Los Angeles Clippers or another team in the future — it would be a boon to the NBA’s attempts to globalize the game. Yao has been heavily involved with NBA Asia, and would provide an important entry point for what the league sees with a region brimming with potential.