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By Jerry West, Special to CALMATTERS

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in Sacramento, June 18, 2018.

I have learned many strategies during my six decades of professional basketball, but one core belief that has always stayed with me is the need to build for the future.

This was true in my playing career and even more so when I moved into the front office. I prioritized finding the right talent and took pride in building teams that would be successful for years.

That’s why I am proud to support the L.A. Clippers’ proposal to build the best basketball arena in the world in Inglewood. And I’m not alone.

Inglewood residents, business owners, local officials, and legislators support this project and urge Gov. Jerry Brown to permit this project to proceed by signing Assembly Bill 987 by Assemblywoman Sydney K. Kamlager-Dove, a Los Angeles Democrat.

I was a young player the day construction crews broke ground on a modern-day Roman Coliseum in Inglewood. That day was the beginning of one of the most important lessons I learned in basketball: building and supporting our community of fans is a key ingredient for a team’s success.

When the Forum opened, new businesses sprang up throughout the city. Those mom and pop businesses were tangible signs of the pride Inglewood residents felt being home to an NBA team.

When the Lakers left Inglewood for downtown Los Angeles in 1999, I felt that we abandoned Inglewood. It was one of the saddest days of my life. So much history was left behind; today we still have the Forum but no basketball team.

Where a professional sports team plays is about so much more than just a physical space. Sports teach young boys and girls skills, teamwork and self-confidence. Having a team to root for brings diverse communities together. And when teams come to economically disadvantaged areas, it can mean jobs.

The L.A. Clippers are led by a man who is unique, caring and gifted, who believes in leadership and is committed to the service of others.

Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie have dedicated their time and resources to level the playing field, and this investment will bring professional basketball – plus opportunities for thousands — back to Inglewood.

The Clippers arena project will create a campus that includes an arena, practice facility, new team headquarters and medical clinic for players and the community.

This project is going to bring 10,000 construction jobs to Inglewood plus another 1,000 permanent jobs when the arena opens in 2024. About one-third of the construction and arena operation jobs will be set aside for the residents of Inglewood and the surrounding area.

This project will pump millions of dollars in tax revenue into city coffers to help fund public safety, education and infrastructure.

And it will be 100 percent paid for with private funds.

We have a unique opportunity to build an arena that truly belongs to the L.A. Clippers, our players, employees, and fans. This arena is key to our future success. It’s also key to the ongoing success of a city that has seen a tremendous economic turnaround since it was abandoned by professional sports.

They say you can’t come home, and that may be true. But you can create a new home, and that is exactly what the Clippers aim to do in Inglewood.


Jerry West, a Hall of Fame basketball player, is an advisor to the Los Angeles Clippers, [email protected]. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.