Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss likes to call Clippers owner Steve Ballmer “Ballz.”
The nickname appeared multiple times in an embarrassing email exchange between Buss and Madison Square Garden Co. official Irving Azoff. In the exchange, Buss mocked Ballmer and the Clippers, who are now seven games ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference standings.
The emails, published by The Los Angeles Times, emerged as part of a lawsuit between MSG and the Inglewood, Calif. over a proposed Clippers arena to be built near the MSG-owned Forum.
Azoff had been attempting to lure the Lakers back to The Forum, where they played from 1967 to 1999, according to the emails. The team’s Staples Center lease expires after the 2024-25 season.
“Heres my dream,” Azoff wrote in a 2017 email to Buss and Linda Rambis, a Lakers official and the wife of former Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis. “Rebuild the forum from scratch. Lakers plus music. boom.”
In another email, Azoff said MSG CEO James Dolan “loves the idea too.”
But the conversation took a dramatic turn when Azoff found out the Clippers were planning a new arena less than a mile away from The Forum.
“Tomorrow [morning] there will be a press conference in Inglewood.. they will announce that ballz and the clippers have optioned land on century blvd to build a new arena,” Azoff wrote in a panicked email to Buss and Rambis.
“We were blind sided and not involved in the process. It’s a long way to fruition but we should talk about how it impacts the lakers, forum, etc.!”
MSG’s lawsuit against Inglewood alleges its mayor, James Butts Jr., tricked the company into ending its lease on the city-owned lot it planned to flip for the new Clippers arena.
Buss also wrote that she’d treat the former Microsoft CEO like her brothers, Jim and Johnny. Buss has tussled with them in a public feud that ended with her as the team’s controlling owner.
“We need to see you nugget!!” Buss wrote to Azoff. “Didn’t Ballz see what we did to my brother?? He will have nothing but Clippers basketball. Whoopee.”
MSG told the LA Times in a statement that it “approached the Lakers about the possibility of repurposing the Forum in the future to accommodate basketball once again, but ultimately nothing came of it.”
The Lakers are now said to be considering an extension on their lease at Staples Center.
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