It’s been six years since the NBA banned the Clippers’ controversial former owner Donald Sterling for life. Sterling, who brought the team to Los Angeles in the ’80s, was always a divisive figure in NBA circles due to his history of racism and the perception that he was unfit to lead a team. In a 2017 interview, Sterling discussed his life since falling out of the public eye.
The rise of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling
Sterling was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, reports KPCC. He left the city as a young man to move to Los Angeles, where he studied law at Southwestern University. Hoping to capitalize on his name, Sterling changed his original surname, Tokowitz, to instill a sense of confidence when people heard it.
For several years, he practiced law and built a fortune. Sterling used that fortune to invest in real estate and the San Diego Clippers, which he bought in 1981 for $12.7 million. He was a controversial figure right away.
Blaming the San Diego market, he moved the team to LA, where the Lakers reigned supreme. Over the next three years, Sterling became embroiled in several controversies. His properties were long accused of racist practices, and the Clippers themselves were accused of discriminatory actions.
Although Sterling hired black personnel, he spoke to black players like they were property and publicly stoked racial flames. In 2005, he was accused of sexual harassment by one of his property managers. He settled several of these cases out of court. Sterling was always a thorn in the NBA side, but it took until 2014 for something to happen.
The fall of Sterling
In 2014, the Clippers were the talk of the NBA and in contention for a title when the boat was rocked forever. Sterling, whose past racial insensitivity was well-documented, made headlines after a racist conversation with mistress V. Stiviano. In it, details ESPN, he chastised her for taking a picture with Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
“In your lousy f—ing Instagram, you don’t have to have yourself walking with black people,” Sterling told Stiviano. “It bothers me a lot that you want to promote, broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to? (…) Food and clothes and cars and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game?”
A controversy ensued. After days of players chiming in and rumors of a potential boycott, the NBA acted swiftly. Adam Silver banned Sterling from participating in the NBA for life. His wife, Shelly, sold the team from under him the following offseason, banking the family $2 billion in the process. Since then, Sterling has mostly remained quiet. This changed with a 2017 interview.
Where is Donald Sterling?
Many believe Sterling to be in a state of mental deterioration. He shrugged off accusations of racism and further buried his reputation in ensuing interviews. With three years to dwell on the team, he lost the team. Sterling claimed to be happy in the interview.
“I am as happy as I have ever been. I am as comfortable as I have ever been. And I don’t want to do anything to disturb that,” he told NBC News.
His wife, who once distanced herself from her husband as a result of the 2014 controversy, apparently had a change of heart in the interview. Despite selling the team against his well, Shelly had pled with the league about reinstating her disgraced husband.
“I couldn’t understand the severity of the ban. It just seemed a little bit out of line,” Shelly told NBC News. “I have talked to [the NBA] several times and I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t [lift the ban]. Maybe it takes a little bit more time.”
Since then, Sterling has been out of the public eye with his well-being, potentially diving downward with age. It takes a lot to get banned from the NBA,m but Sterling found a way to do it. Since then, he’s been forced to reckon with his past mistakes and ask himself how he let all of this happen. He still, apparently, does not know the answer.