The National Basketball Association has banned Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, for life. Sterling was done in by racist remarks. If three-fourths of the league's team owners agree, Sterling will be forced to sell the team.
From a financial perspective, don't cry for Sterling. This morning, in the 919 Gang report, a newsletter for former and current U-T editorial staffers, sportswriter Barry Bloom spelled out the monetary history of the Clippers. Bloom worked for the San Diego Tribune, and followed the Clippers, when the team was in San Diego. Here's Bloom's report:
"The Clippers were the original Buffalo Braves. In a weird swap and sale that would never happen today in the NBA, owner John Y. Brown of the Braves swapped the club for the Boston Celtics, owned by Irv Levin, a Los Angeles native. Levin moved the Braves to San Diego and renamed them the Clippers. The league, in its wisdom, decided to shuffle the players of both teams in the swap and in very Clipperesque fashion, San Diego got the raw end of the deal. It got even worse when the Clippers signed an injured Bill Walton as a free agent. Under the rules at the time, Commissioner Larry O'Brien gutted the Clippers, sending two of their best players to Portland in compensation. Walton, with a broken tarsal navicular bone in his foot, couldn't play anyway.
Levin went bankrupt, and that's when Donald Sterling came in, buying them for little cash while assuming their debt for pennies on the dollar."
Sportswriters are saying that Sterling paid $12.5 million for the team, but knowledgeable sources say it wasn't that much, considering how he picked up the team out of bankruptcy and plunked down little. What could he sell it for? Probably more than $700 million, the price that the Milwaukee team recently changed hands for.
I called Tom Cushman, former sports editor and columnist for the Tribune and Union-Tribune. Cushman, just hired by the Tribune, was driving to San Diego around the time Sterling, the new owner, was boasting what he would do with the team. Cushman stopped to see his longtime friend, Bob Knight, coach of Indiana University. Sterling was telling friends that he would hire Knight to coach the Clippers. But Knight told Cushman he had never spoken with Sterling. In any case, Knight didn't like the pro game and everybody who knew him knew he would never coach a pro team. So among the first columns Cushman wrote for the Tribune was one pointing out Sterling's lack of integrity. In his long career as a sportswriter and editor, "I didn't deal with any one person that I thought less of than Sterling," sums up Cushman.