As a young basketball fan in LA, I grew up with two choices. The Lakers and their 16 NBA championships or the Clippers and their cheaper tickets. My family chose the Clips. Ever since then I have been a die hard Clippers fan: I imitated Quentin Richardson’s signature 3 Point celebration, I chanted “MVP!” when Elton Brand was at the free throw line, I watched the horrific Shaun Livingston injury live on TV, I wore all red to see the crafty Sam Cassell lead the Clippers to their only playoffs series victory in what seemed like centuries. I lived through season after season of agony and defeat. That only made the last few years better. We suddenly have a bona fide superstar in Blake Griffin along with the best point guard in the world in Chris Paul, and championship aspirations under brand new coach Doc Rivers. This was supposed to be our year. Now, basketball is the last thing on the mind of Clippers players, staff, fans and coaches.
That was my reaction when I first read the transcript of his racist remarks.
I’ve said that before. Many, many, times.
I said it when he let Elton Brand leave LA for the 76er’s, when he was trash talking point guard Baron Davis during games, when he time after time refused to pay players what they were worth. Sterling, until recently, treated the Clippers like a business. He wanted to make money. The bottom line of the budget was more important than the bottom line of the standings. Sterling ran the great Elgin Baylor out of the GM job. (He was accused of racist remarks and was actually sued by the NBA legend, not that surprising anymore) To put it simply, Donald Sterling is the absolute worst.
How could you even root for a team this bad? It’s hard, Believe me. But, I didn’t waver. I diligently supported what some were calling the worst franchise in the history of professional basketball, The Los Angeles Clippers. So now, even as the Owner of the team works his way up on TIME Magazine’s annual “Worst People on The Face Of The Planet” rankings, I am and will always be a Clippers fan.
Never once in my entire life have I, or any player on the Clippers for that matter, ever said “Let’s go get this win for Mr. Sterling!” When I say I’m a Clippers fan, I’m not saying I’m a fan of Donald Sterling’s check writing skills, I’m saying I’m a fan of the team that goes on the court, not the person who pays them. Just like when I like a TV show, I’m not a fan of the studio executive signing the check, I’m a fan of the people making the content that appears on screen. But, due to Sterling being an absolutely awful human being, the focus of the NBA has shifted from on the court to outside of it.
I can’t remember the last time any Clipper player or coach has been quoted about anything other than the Sterling scandal. The Clippers are all anyones talking about. I actually heard an entire news story about the Clippers on NPR today, not once did it mention the incredible season the team had this year, though.
All this means that Sterling’s comments have shifted the conversation away from basketball toward things outside of it. No longer am I and other Clipper fans asked how we could support a team with such a losing history, it’s how we could support a team with such an terrible human being paying the checks?
I support the players. I support the coach. I support the organization. I do not support Mr. Donald Sterling.
No matter how they handled the situation, I would’ve been 100% behind it. That’s what fans do, we will defend and support our team to the end of time. If the Clippers decided to boycott the rest of this year’s playoffs, I’d support it. But, I love what they did this weekend so much more.
As the Clippers walked onto the floor for Sunday’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors, the team huddled at mid-court and at once took off their warm up shirts and threw them on the ground (Pictured On the right). For me at least, this was the perfect statement: “We’re going to play, but this isn’t for you, this is for us!” They collectively showed they are playing because they want to win it all, not for him.
Tomorrow, the NBA will announce its findings and presumably their punishment in regards to the Sterling tape. What I think will happen publicly is that Sterling will be suspended for the rest of the playoffs, but behind the scenes I expect that NBA commissioner Adam Silver will pressure Sterling to sell the team by next season.
Without Donald Sterling, all links to the past will be gone. The Clippers will finally have severed all ties not only to racism, bigotry, and hatred, but to a front office and organization that was an actual embarrassment to the NBA. The stage will finally be set for the Clippers of the future. An elite, title contending team, with an owner who actually deserves to be a member of society. As fans, Clipper Nation has collectively dreamed of the day that Donald Sterling would sell them team. That day is coming. It is coming very soon. Until then, us fans should do what we do best: Support the players.
It’s completely unfair to ask the players, who’ve worked insanely hard all their lives to get to this moment, to give it all up. For some players this is the best chance they’ll get to the thing they always dreamed of: Winning an NBA Championship. One with so much meaning as well. Think of how amazing it would be if the Clippers won and showed Sterling that he isn’t better than them and to show him that they can succeed no matter how he feels. A team full of different races, and the fans from all over the world rejoicing in victory not only in basketball, but for equality as a whole. That would truly be something special.
So, I’ll be at Game 5. I’m not going to let hatred and racism keep me from enjoying the game of basketball and supporting the team I love.
I will be there to support players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J Reddick, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jared Dudley, WIllie Green, Ryan Hollins, and Reggie Bullock.
I will be there to support coaches Doc Rivers, Alvin Gentry, Tyronn Lue, Armond Hill, and Brendan O’Connor.
I will be there to support Clipper icons like Clipper Darrell, the Clipper Stripper, DJ Dense, Ralph Lawler, and Mike Smith.
But I will not be there to support Donald Sterling. Because Donald Sterling sucks.