Donald Sterling is no longer welcome in the NBA after racist comments he made on tape. But there was a time over three decades ago when the league was thinking about banning him for a different reason.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the NBA previously tried to remove Sterling as the Clippers owner in 1982 because he made recorded comments that the team needed to finish last in order to draft Ralph Sampson. So basically the league wanted to give him the boot over alleged tanking.
Yes, 32 years before another recording led NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ban Sterling for life and take steps to force the team’s sale, the owner’s words created trouble.
According to stories in The Times detailing the matter, the special committee focused on comments Sterling made to a luncheon earlier that year insisting the Clippers needed to finish last so they could draft a player like Ralph Sampson.
Sterling said at the time that the remarks were misunderstood. The NBA, however, fined him $10,000 and, when the committee met, it listened to recordings of the luncheon.
An NBA source went so far as to tell The Times: “He’s as good as gone.”
“The owners seem shocked,” Times reporter Randy Harvey wrote in September 1982, “he did not turn out to be the real thing. Perhaps they will scratch the surface the next time they need a new owner.”
The movement to oust Sterling as owner of the Clippers eventually fizzled out at that time, obviously. Now, 32 years later, Sterling finally finds himself on the outside looking in for good.