Los Angeles Clippers: Can They Overcome the Sterling Stigma?

Jose SalviatiCorrespondent IIMarch 3, 2011

The Clippers can succeed in spite of Sterling, can't they?
The Clippers can succeed in spite of Sterling, can't they?

You know how sometimes a certain event in life can define a person for the rest of their lives?

Take Steve Bartman, for example.

Poor guy is a decent person, I'm sure. Pays his bills on time, is good to his family, etc. Yet, in a split second, he reaches out to catch a foul ball and he is forever known as "that guy."

Bartman could discover the cure for cancer, AIDS and figure out a way to shut up Charlie Sheen and that flub-up in Chicago would still overshadow all of it.

Life just isn't fair like that sometimes.

Take the Clippers of Los Angeles as another example. The team is riding a high that hasn't been seen in Clipper Nation in, well, ever. Sure, the franchise got within a game of the Western Conference Finals in 2006, but this year is different.

This team doesn't just play—they excite.

You know that other basketball team in Los Angeles once fired a coach, not because he wasn't winning, but because his team wasn't exciting. LA is about the show! The Clippers are, without a doubt, the show in Los Angeles.

They have Eric Gordon's smooth jumper, DeAndre Jordan's thunderous dunks and this power forward whom I understand is pretty good, too. This is the Clippers' time to shine.

Instead, they are overshadowed by their creepy owner.

Talk of Sterling's odd behavior, from heckling Baron Davis to his past legal troubles, always seem to cloud whatever success this team might have. Most recently was the ridiculous Black History Month promotion in the wrong month.

Classic Sterling faux pas.

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke said it best in a recent article about the promotion.  

"If this were any other owner of any other team, this would merely raise eyebrows. But given Sterling's history on racial issues, it drops jaws."

Sterling could do a thousand things right from this point forward, but he will always be the creepy Clipper owner. Unlike Steve Bartman, however, Sterling shows no signs of slowing down. The creepiness just keeps coming.

Now, there are lots of things that will stall the growth of a franchise or even kill it all together. Lack of revenue has seen franchises die in cities as big as Los Angeles (see LA Rams). Poor leadership by decision-makers has a way of stunting a team's growth as well.

Imagine the Portland Trailblazers if they would have drafted Michael Jordan instead of Steve Bartman in the 1984 draft.

Yeah, I know they didn't draft Bartman, but when you pass on Jordan, it doesn't much matter who you draft instead, does it?

No revenue, bad leadership, poor coaching, the list is pretty easy to compile. Creepy ownership, however, doesn't necessarily lead to a death sentence. In fact, teams can often times overcome the creep factor.

It's happened before.

The 1990 baseball World Series was won by the Cincinnati Reds. They swept the Oakland A's four games to none. The Big Red Machine was transformed as the Nasty Boys and baseball was alive in Cincinnati.

The owner of that club made Donald Sterling look like a Boy Scout.

Marge Schott was a lifelong Reds fan who bought a minority, then a controlling interest in her favorite team.

A fan owned her club. What should have been a pretty amazing feel-good story quickly turned weird when Schott began to open her mouth.

Decency won't allow me to lay out the details of Schott's creepiness, but I'll do what I can using clever fill-ins. Schott once called her team's outfielders "million dollar @#$#^$%^ "

Her marketing director alleged that Schott kept a Nazi swastika armband at her home and claims he overheard her say "sneaky ^%&*#$%#@% Jews are all alike."

It gets worse, if you can believe it.

Miss Congenality went on to defend Hitler, explain how she would never hire another African-American (not the word she used) and how players who wore earrings were #$%$%^& .

Through it all, free agents came to Cincinnati and the team succeeded. In spite of a creep factor that makes Sterling look like a pathetic creep rookie, the team won. 

Once again, Plaschke says it well when he explains how this type of behavior is tolerated, "...the only color the NBA [and MLB] cares about is green."

The Reds were winning, money was coming in, everyone looked the other way. 

Now, please understand, I'm not condoning what Sterling or Schott did or continue to do. I'm just saying that using Sterling as an excuse for why the Clippers can't build on this recent success is wrong.

They can. They need to.