The Battle of Los Angeles: Sterling Goes Nuclear on Magic
Magic Johnson boasts five NBA championships, three MVP awards, a chain of movie theaters, and a net worth of a half-billion dollars. But intracity nemesis Donald Sterling wonders what the basketball Hall of Famer has ever done.
In a remarkable interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper that aired Monday night, Sterling went into attack mode against the man who wants to replace him as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. "What has he done? Can you tell me?" Sterling asked. "He's got AIDS."
Sterling contended that Johnson instructed him to stay quiet in the wake of the release of the tapes of the Clippers owner making racist remarks, which included instructions to girlfriend V. Stiviano not to bring Magic Johnson to Clippers games. The pariah NBA owner told Cooper that Johnson told him he knew V. Stiviano and would talk to her. "He knew the girl, he said," Sterling maintained Johnson told him in a phone conversation initiated by the Laker great. "He knew the girl well." Sterling says he later learned that Johnson wished to buy his team. He sketched a connect-the-dots picture perhaps designed to make viewers wonder if Johnson played a nefarious role in his downfall. "I think he wanted me to just do nothing so that he could buy the team."
"What has he done for the black people?" Sterling wondered of Johnson. "He does nothing. It's all talk." Sterling accused Johnson of sleeping with a woman in every NBA city and contracting HIV as a result of his promiscuity. "I just don't think he's a good a example for the children of Los Angeles."
Sterling's attack on Johnson contrasted with a prettier picture painted of the woman behind the controversial recordings. "She is a good person," Sterling said of Stiviano. "She is a beautiful person." Sterling theorized that Stiviano's lust for money stems from a benevolent desire to help her family. "She tried to help her family, the fifteen people," the octogenarian owner explained. "What a job!" Sterling contends that Stiviano "baited" him into making racist remarks and portrayed himself as a victim. "I was stupid," Sterling said breaking down. "How could a girl care for a man fifty-one years older?"
Sterling came across as occasionally manipulative but never coached. He offered apologies for his hurtful remarks but insisted that he didn't mean them. He doubled down, however, on the animus shown toward Magic Johnson in the recordings. "I think he should be ashamed of himself," Sterling opined of Johnson. "I think he should go into the background."
For anyone believing that good counsel for Sterling, the explosive interview strongly suggests he will not go away quietly as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.