Jim McIlvaine , SportsBlog.com Presents: Legends Corner- Featuring continuous and compelling blogs written by NBA veterans, Legends Corner is the content hub for some of basketball's most legendary players. on
I knew who Donald Sterling was and what kind of person he was before I ever played a minute of NBA basketball. I had Ron Grinker for an agent, a man considered by many to be the very best in the business. He felt it was not only his job to not only represent his clients, but his obligation to educate them about the business of NBA basketball and the people involved. As Danny Manning's agent, Grinker had about as much exposure to Sterling and Sterling's infamous stories as anyone in the NBA. He made it clear from day one that the Clippers were the absolute worst franchise in the NBA to play for, owned by the absolutely worst human in the NBA- Donald Sterling.
Grinker was not alone in those feelings. A few years after Danny Manning was the Clippers' #1 overall draft choice, Danny Ferry was the #2 overall draft choice in the NBA, by the perennially bottom-dwelling Clippers. Ferry's father, Bob, had a long history in the NBA himself, as both a player and GM and presumably knew Sterling's reputation as well as anyone else who had a pulse and a job in the league. When faced with the prospect of playing for Donald Sterling, Danny Ferry opted instead to play in Europe.
For all the armchair quarterback comments made by people that someone should've taken action sooner, that a player should've taken a stand against such a horrible owner and said the millions of dollars just weren't worth it, it's disappointing that Danny Ferry's decision has been forgotten by so many. It wasn't a player like Larry Johnson, known for his racially-charged comments about the NBA who was cashing checks from an owner who ended up going on trial for kidnapping and sexual assault who took a stand against Donald Sterling, but perhaps the whitest white guy to play in the NBA since Larry Bird- Danny Ferry. Kudos Danny Ferry for doing the right thing more than 20 years ago and never getting the credit you deserved.
Although Adam Silver suggested the $2.5 million fine levied against Sterling was the highest they were allowed to impose, that didn't sound right to me. After double-checking, I knew that the NBA fined the Minnesota Timberwolves $3.5 million for signing an illegal contract with Joe Smith. As it turns out, $2.5 isn't even the biggest fine the NBA has ever imposed on Sterling. When the Clippers franchise was moved from San Diego to Los Angeles, David Stern tried to fine Sterling $25 million. Sterling turned around and sued the NBA for $100 million (get ready for that narrative to be repeated with even larger dollar amounts involved). Stern eventually lowered the fine to $6 million, but Sterling never paid it. Instead, the money was withheld from Sterling's cut of NBA expansion fees.
People can still be mad if they want to in what Kareem describes as the "Finger-wagging Olympics" and blame the NAACP for honoring Sterling multiple timesor they can be mad at the NBA for not taking action sooner or Adam Silver for not fining Donald Sterling enough or NBA players and coaches who didn't refuse to earn a living playing for the Clippers organization, but I would call out someone else entirely.
I point the finger of blame at TMZ. While V. Stiviano, Sterling's latest girlfriend/mistress may not have known how powerful a person she was, TMZ clearly knew the power they held as a news reporting organization. Even though they knew they could bring down a man like Donald Sterling by releasing a single audio tape of one of his racially-biased rants, they allowed Dennis Rodman, Charles Smith and a gaggle of other former NBA players to make an ill-advised and highly-criticizedtrip to North Korea.
Why would TMZ do such a thing? Because they knew they'd be able to milk that trip for hundreds of storiesabout the chaos that went on during the trip and the fallout afterwards. I will give TMZ a chance to redeem themselves- give V. Stiviano another tape recorder, put her on a plane to North Korea and let her go to work on Kim Jong-un.