STERLING TOWERS – The NBA playoffs haven’t exactly been scintillating so far on the court, with the most interesting story yet being LeBron James’ wandering eyes while dunking on Michael Jordan – or at least his basketball team – on his way to a foregone conclusion three-peat… but who am I kidding? I don’t care about any of that happy-crappy, I needed something to write about today and the Sports Gods handed me Donald Sterling!
List your humble West Coast corespondent among the many, many people around here and throughout the world of sports who always considered the guy an intolerable douche.. .and yet no matter how this former ambulance-chasing lawyer (that’s right) continued to lower the bar of his own douchery to depths approaching the Mariana Trench he always seemed to fail upward. He carpet-bagged his way into a real estate nest egg by buying up cheap property in Beverly Hills in the 1970s and started making observations that led to the rise of his empire: African Americans “…smell.” Mexican-Americans, “…just sit around and smoke and drink all day.” And apparently the two groups don’t get along. Much better to deal with Koreans because “…they take whatever conditions I give them and still pay the rent.” This kind of thinking got him elected to the Landlord Hall of Shame!
Yet, despite all the ugly buildings (and lawsuits) that bear his name, it’s the Clippers he was best known for… until now. Purchased like depressed housing for a scant $12.5 million in 1981, Sterling copied the Lakers’ tradition of moving an NBA franchise to Los Angeles yet keeping its now completely incongruous name. A new one may have cost money, and Sterling was determined from the beginning not to spend any. He cut costs wherever he could, even fired the team trainer and asked coach Paul Silas if he wouldn’t mind taping up the players before the games. He was a visionary owner… envisioning his team run with a “Southern plantation type structure” where the “poor black boys from the South” would play for a white coach. He repeated that “poor black boy” line in one of his astute contract negotiations with young franchise player Danny Manning, as in “that’s a lot of money for a poor black boy,” that sent his best player storming out near tears. The proud and accomplished Elgin Baylor was made GM, a face that for a little while said “Clippers, we’re not racist,” but he was given no payroll, no chance, less respect and when Sterling tried to blame him for all those losing seasons everyone rightly laughed.
Don Sterling continued to laugh, too… all the way to the bank… where he would occasionally have to dip into his growing piles of money to settle numerous lawsuits, or to buy his son (now dead of a drug overdose) out of any legal issues from shooting his friend in the back as he was running away. And yet, when the Staples Center was built, Sterling moved his way out of the dank Sports Arena and into the millions of new luxury boxes and top-tier ticket pricing.
So, everyone was laughing. Jay Leno was laughing. And Sterling’s laughing face adorned a series of hilarious ads citing the humanitarian awards he
bought won… or announcing a brand new housing and legal center for homeless people (never happened), or seeking cheap floozies for parties (all true). Heck, even the NAACP was about to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award tonight. And racism doesn’t exist anymore, the Supreme Court even said so!
The Clippers are worth almost $350 million, maybe more, and despite the slums and suits and expensive sex scandals, Sterling continued his ways unnoticed by the media or everyday people. But no more! TMZ has accomplished what all the other news giants could not…they’ve put Sterling’s name on the lips of non-sports fans across the land! So much so that even my wife called it a “…long tradition of Marge Schott and Zorba the Greek.” Indeed.
Big Al Sternberg/Fake Sandy Alderson, tomorrow.