It’ll likely be months or even years before the fallout of Donald Sterling’s racist remarks—a revelation that prompted NBA commissioner Adam Silver to ban the Los Angeles Clippers owner for life—is worked out legally, morally and otherwise.
Just don’t expect LeBron James and his basketball brethren to cease turning the screws on Sterling’s sordid legacy. James wants the Sterling family out of the NBA, completely. He shared some of those thoughts with Miami Herald Heat beat writer Joseph Goodman:
LeBron on Donald Sterling: "As players, we want what’s right and we don’t feel like no one in his family should be able to own the team."— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) May 11, 2014
James was referring to the prospect of Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly, assuming ownership of the team while the league pursues its legal strategy, something James acknowledged is bound to be drawn out in full, per ESPN.com:
"At the end of the day, this is going to be a long litigation when it comes to that," James said. "This guy who's owned the team since the '80s is not going to just give the team up in a day. So we understand it's going to be long, but we want what's right."
Sterling’s litigious travails are, by now, well documented, with the prevailing wisdom being that the longtime owner has no intention of going gracefully into that good night. Here’s USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt writing on the subject shortly after Silver’s decision:
In a best-case scenario, NBA owners could vote to remove Sterling and force him to sell the team in mid-May. It requires a vote of three-quarters of the Board of Governors to terminate Sterling's ownership.
But Sterling is expected to throw up a roadblock by seeking an injunction to stop the NBA from proceeding. One possible route Sterling could take is claiming an antitrust violation and saying the NBA is trying to undermine the value of his franchise and injure the competitive process of the league.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, even if Sterling is forced to heed the NBA’s decision, Shelly Sterling—who told ABC she will seek a divorce—has every intention of corralling the family claim.
She might well have a grounded legal claim. At the same time, Silver's decision was never about winning the court wars; it was about taking a stand for what kind of league the NBA ought to be. Even if the Sterlings wind up "winning," the moral goodwill wrought by the NBA's actions are bound to carry a much longer, brighter day.
As for James, he has more immediate—if not necessarily bigger—things on his mind: namely, dispatching the pesky Brookly Nets, who used a 104-90 win Saturday night to halve Miami’s lead in their best-of-seven series to 2-1.
Even in defeat, James was predictably superb, netting 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and five assists.
If and when the Heat withstand Brooklyn’s challenge, they’ll be looking at as close to an ideal conference-finals matchup as possible: either the offensively anemic Indiana Pacers or the young, inconsistent Washington Wizards.
Once the playoffs are over, whatever Miami’s ultimate fate, James could very well become the player face of the NBA’s anti-Sterling campaign—a looming cultural cachet that’ll make drilling game-winners feel easy by comparison.