HBO’s ‘Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty’ is a ten-part drama that fictionalizes the story behind the multiple championships the Los Angeles Lakers won in the 1980s. While the Lakers were well on their way to establishing a legacy, the San Diego Clippers — now known as the Los Angeles Clippers — struggled with several losing records during the same time. Donald Sterling bought the team two years after Jerry Buss acquired the Lakers. But Donald’s tenure as the owner was mired in many controversies. So, if you’re curious to find out more, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Donald Sterling?
Donald Sterling was born Donald Tokowitz to Jewish immigrants in Chicago, Illinois. When he was only two years old, the family moved to Los Angeles, California. Later, Donald married Rochelle Stein in 1955, and they had three children together. He graduated from law school in 1961 when he was around 27 years old, becoming a successful divorce attorney. After that, he made his money by heavily investing in real estate when the market was down, buying rundown apartments in the Los Angeles neighborhood.
In 1981, Donald used his immense wealth to buy the San Diego Clippers franchise for $12.5 million. However, multiple controversies off-court took up a lot of local headlines. In 1986, tenants of his Beverly Hills, California, properties complained at the City Hall about unreasonable rent hikes. Earlier in 1982, the NBA fined Donald $10,000 for publicly suggesting his team lose more to end up with a better draft position.
A few years later, Donald had persistent legal trouble with his real estate properties. In 2004, he was sued by the Los Angeles Housing Rights Center for discriminatory rental practices. According to his property supervisor, Summer Davenport, Donald didn’t want to rent properties to Hispanic and black people. Tenants claimed that the employees didn’t take rent checks and refused to carry out repairs in the apartments. In 2006, the Justice Department sued Donald for housing discrimination in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles. It was later settled for $2.73 million.
The pattern continued in 2009 when Elgin Baylor, the former general manager of the Clippers, filed a suit claiming he was discriminated against based on his age and race, ultimately leading to his termination. Elgin further alleged that Donald had a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude” when it came to negotiating with black players. Eventually, Elgin dropped the racial accusations, and a judge ruled in Donald’s favor.
Perhaps the most damaging incident became public in 2014 when a recorded conversation between Donald and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, leaked. The racist remarks included Donald saying, “Don’t bring black people” to the Clippers games. He was also recorded saying, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” An investigation revealed that Donald was indeed the one speaking.
As a result, the NBA banned Donald for life in April 2014 and fined him $2.5 million. In an interview the next month, Donald seemed to apologize, saying, “I’m a good member who made a mistake, and I’m apologizing, and I’m asking for forgiveness.” He further claimed that his girlfriend baited him into saying those things. However, he also insulted Magic Johnson during the same interview.
Where is Donald Sterling Now?
As a result of the ban, Rochelle moved forward to negotiate a sale of the team. In May 2014, Donald’s lawyer said his client disavowed an agreement with Rochelle, indicating that he would let her negotiate the sale. Eventually, it was determined that Donald was mentally unfit to make such decisions, and the team was sold for $2 billion to Steve Ballmer. It was reported in 2014 that he was being treated for prostate cancer and that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well.
In 2012, Rochelle had kicked Donald out of their home after he was heard arguing with a mistress. In the same year, the duo, unfortunately, lost their son Scott to an accidental drug overdose. After initially deciding to file for a divorce, the couple seemed to have resolved their differences when they called it off in 2016. In a 2017 interview, Donald appeared to have made peace with what happened, saying, “I am as happy as I have ever been. I am as comfortable as I have ever been, and I don’t want to do anything to disturb that.” He still seems to live in Beverly Hills and has been looking into supporting charities recently.
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