Maybe Steve Ballmer submitted the winning bid for the Los Angeles Clippers or maybe he didn't, but one thing is clear -- $2 billion would be a lot of money to pay for an NBA franchise.

Conflicting reports emerged Thursday about the ex-Microsoft CEO, with the Los Angeles Times saying Ballmer appeared to have won the bidding war for Donald Sterling's team with a $2 billion offer that trumped those of other major players:

The Geffen group offered $1.6 billion and the Ressler-Karsh group $1.2 billion. People familiar with both those offers said they were rejected.

ESPN.com seemed to confirm later, saying that sources told the site that the Sterling family trust has reached a deal with Ballmer.

The Associated Press reported later that Ballmer had reached a "binding agreement" to buy the team with Shelly Sterling.

The NBA still needs to approve the sale, and it's still unclear how much Donald Sterling -- who still legally owns the team -- intends to get involved in this, if at all.

Sterling's attorney, Bobby Samini, made some comments Thursday, according to the LA Times, that seem to indicate a desire to be very much involved. "There's been no sale," Samini said, according to the Times. "There can be no sale without Donald's signature."

But the ESPN.com report, citing sources, claims that Sterling's approval isn't needed and that the agreement between the family trust and Ballmer will go immediately to the NBA for final approval.

That conflicts with the LA Times' reporting, which said the tentative deal still must receive the blessing of Donald Sterling, who has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades.

The deal also needs the eventual approval of three-fourths of the 29 other NBA owners, but is expected to clear that hurdle as long as Ballmer reaffirms his pledge to keep the team in Los Angeles and not move it to the Seattle srea, where he lives.

What we do know? $2 billion would be more than anyone has ever paid for an NBA franchise by almost a factor of four. The Milwaukee Bucks were recently purchased for a record $550 million.