By Demarcus Robinson (Slightly Factual)
Los Angeles’ doormat team has gone from exciting up and comers to outside contenders.
When Chris Paul landed with the Los Angeles Clippers a bolt of excitement shot through most hoops fans, as well as the team itself. A team that had been filled with exciting young talent would finally have a certified game changer running its ship (all puns intended). The anticipation manifested itself in the name Lob City. We knew what was coming our way as basketball fans, and it was a tidal wave of alley-oops. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would feast upon the prepared table of lobs set by the master-chef of the hardwood, CP3. In addition to the air-assisted throw downs, the team would provide plenty of conventional dunks and posterizations.
NBA fans were also interested to see Paul in a top-tier market, even if it was with the “other” L.A. team. A mixture of a large market and Griffin’s nightly highlight reel meant more national coverage games for CP3. We have already seen what Paul, dubbed “The point god” by various fans, can do when the bright lights are on. You only need to look at his playoff performance against the Lakers while with the New Orleans Hornets. During that series CP3 showed true wizardry by averaging 22 points while shooting a hair under 55% from the field, 47.4% from three and 79.6% from the free-throw line (noticeably lower than his usual FT%). While being a scoring force, the point god dished to his teammates to the tune of 11.5 dimes per game, and while doing all of this he helped out on the boards by grabbing 6.7 per game.
While the Hornets eventually fell to the Lakers in the series, Paul once again showed that he could propel a team to new heights. All he needed was a better supporting cast and a team that was willing and able to produce such a thing. He almost had his wish in spades with the Lakers, but David Stern trolled Lakers nation by not only vetoing their acquisition of Paul but by later allowing him to go to the Clippers. In the end the Clippers got a certified superstar point guard that could change the direction of an ailing franchise. L.A. also got one of the most liked players in the league in Paul. There’s just something about CP3 that fans love. He’s a great player, but his smile off the court and assassin nature on it endears him to those who watch him play. There’s also the little guy factor since Paul is most certainly among giants whenever he steps on the court at six feet tall and 175 pounds.
I love watching Chris Paul play. I enjoy watching the Clippers succeed, which is a rarity. I love Blake Griffin dunks. My eyes grow to dinner plate size anytime I see Jordan cock a dunk absurdly far behind his head. The team has holes and is certainly not the top team in the West right now, but that’s okay because they should get there soon if all goes right.
There’s just one problem with rooting for this team though. The problem is Donald Sterling.
Whenever any of us cheer the Clippers on we also cheer the success of Donald Sterling. Sterling is possibly the most despicable owner in American sports. I would say all of sports, but I’m sure there are some guys to rival him around the world. So every time one of us leaps out of our seat when Paul obliterates another defender or Blake baptizes an unfortunate opponent, it’s a tribute to Sterling.
What makes Sterling such a bad guy? Well there are persistent claims of racism, charges of being a slumlord, sexual indiscretions (including claims of asking a prostitute for advice running the team) and then there’s the matter of heckling his own players.
The charges of racism come from prospective tenants, Black and Hispanic, who want to rent his apartment units. Lawsuits have been filed claiming Sterling refused to rent to non-Koreans in certain buildings. He has been directly sued by the Department of Justice. His fondness of Asian tenants as well as employees has nothing to do with his respect for them as people though:
Sterling’s preference for Asians extended to the people he wanted in his buildings. “I like Korean employees and I like Korean tenants,” he told Dean Segal, chief engineer at a Sterling property called the Mark Wilshire Tower Apartments, according to testimony Segal gave in the Housing Rights Center case. And Davenport testified that Sterling told her, “I don’t have to spend any more money on them, they will take whatever conditions I give them and still pay the rent…so I’m going to keep buying in Koreatown.”
Also, there have been accusations from within the Clippers organization from former front office member and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor. There’s also the one time he tried to celebrate Black History Month in March as well.
From there Sterling continues his sleaze train by having less than admirable encounters with the opposite sex. He pays them for sex in a very unapologetic way, and he demeans them in professional settings. Don’t worry, he didn’t demean any black women in professional settings because he doesn’t hire them it looks like. Here’s a personal account from one of his former female employees:
“He would tell me that I needed to learn the ‘Asian way’ from his younger girls because they knew how to please him.”
Davenport testified in 2004. Davenport also stated: “If I made a mistake, I needed to stand at my desk and bow my head and say, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Sterling. I’m sorry I disappointed you. I’ll try to do better.’ “
There’s also paying multiple women for sex, and in some instances getting their HIV results so he could continue to have unprotected sex with his wife afterward. But could you blame him? The women just couldn’t keep their hands off of him apparently:
“The woman wanted sex everywhere,” Sterling said. “In the alley, in her car, in the elevator, in the upstairs seventh floor, in the bathroom.” And he paid her for it. “Every time she provided sex she got $500,” he testified in 2003. “At the end of every week or at the end of two weeks, we would figure [it] out, and I would, perhaps, pay her then.” “When you pay a woman for sex, you are not together with her,” he further testified. “You’re paying her for a few moments to use her body for sex. Is it clear? Is it clear?” Sterling’s affair with Castro nearly exploded after he took back a $1 million Beverly Hills property she claimed had been a gift. They wound up squabbling in court, where they ultimately reached a confidential settlement.
It’s not always about race and sexual misconduct with Sterling though. On one occasion he refused to cover costs for prostate cancer surgery for assistant coach Kim Hughes because the surgery would have been outside of the Clippers’ healthcare network.
“I contacted the Clippers about medical coverage and they said the surgery wouldn’t be covered,” Hughes said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And they said if they did it for one person, they’d have to do for everybody else.”
Luckily for Hughes some of the players were alerted to his plight by Mike Dunleavy and they pitched in to pay for the surgery.
Outside of these actions Sterling has ridiculed his own players during games while sitting court side. Mix with that the cold and callous nature in which he has run the team for most of his tenure and you have a pretty horrible guy and owner. Somehow luck has taken a liking to Sterling who has been rewarded in recent drafts and via trade. So will his nature allow the Clippers to progress into champions or at least perennial championship contenders? Who knows. A guy like Sterling will probably find a way to continue unscrupulous behavior while hitching his wagon onto the excitement of the Clippers.
I’m not saying for people to hide their joy when watching Lob City, but just to remain conscious of the dichotomy it presents. It’s something we’ll most likely have to live with for quite a while since there’s no way Sterling will sell the team unless something wholly unexpected occurs. He’s the second tenant in the Staples Center! Nobody will give that up. The best we can hope for is more coverage of his unethical actions just to keep us aware.
I just know I won’t ever be fully comfortable cheering on Chris Paul while I know that I’m sort of cheering on Donald Sterling, because he benefits from it all.
Oh, I almost forgot about the totally non-creepy way he described giving CP3 and Blake long-term contracts.
“Chris Paul will be with me for a lifetime,” Sterling said. “And Blake, too. I’m not going to ever let these guys go. They are max players, and so you’re going to pay that and keep them.”
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