LA Clippers, Day 1 A.D. (After Donald Sterling)
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Basketball
Grantland's Andrew Sharp:
Nobody knew what to expect. Would players walk out? Would the fans cheer or go silent? What would Doc Rivers say? Would a playoff game start the healing process for players and fans, or would it show just how wounded everyone really was?
About 30 minutes later, Adam Silver stepped up to the podium in New York City, and with his voice shaking, he told the world that “Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life.”
After four days wondering what the NBA’s options were, we’d all pretty much accepted that no punishment would satisfy us, because there’s only so much the NBA could do. Before the press conference, there were rumors Sterling would be suspended indefinitely and fined $5 million, which sounded about as vague and unfulfilling as we expected. But then Silver went nuclear, banning Sterling, fining him as much as possible, and pushing the owners to force a sale of the Clippers this summer. He did all this knowing it’ll almost definitely end in a lawsuit from Sterling, and also knowing that this was a bigger moment for him and his players and his league to make a statement about what they stand for, and that was more important.
In about 30 seconds, three decades of shame for the NBA turned into a moment that could make any basketball fan proud.
After 30 years ignoring and enabling an accused racist and pervert andcheapskate and all-around reptile of a human being, all of it was over. There was no ambiguity. This was the commissioner telling the world that the NBA is better than someone like Donald Sterling.
For anyone who’d known about Sterling this whole time, it was the ultimate catharsis.
For the Clippers and Warriors and coaches and players and fans and people at the concession stands, it meant something more practical. There wasn’t any more pressure to send some sweeping message with the whole world watching. Silver sent the loudest message possible.
From Friday night to Tuesday morning, the whole sports world focused its energy on what’s wrong with the Clippers, and we all had to reckon with what Sterling actually represents. It was a painful and educational reminder that blatant racism still exists in this country, and it can fester in subtle ways. Any basketball fan will remember this week forever, and they’ll remember Sterling for all kinds of awful reasons.
I just hope we also remember that guys like LeBron James and David West spoke up immediately and eloquently to condemn Sterling, that announcers all over the league echoed the sentiments on a national platform, that fans were universally disgusted, and that teams like the Warriors considered walking off the court if Sterling weren’t punished severely enough. Then Silver stepped up and made a powerful statement to the world so the players didn’t have to, and we got a Clippers game that was a lot like a Jordan free throw. It could’ve been depressing and uncomfortable, but things worked out and we got pure, stupid joy for three hours at Staples Center.
Now it’s probably time to stop talking about this every minute of every hour, but before we do, one thing was clear Tuesday: The best antidote to people like Sterling is everything the NBA already is.