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Former Clipper Marques Johnson tells a vintage Donald Sterling story

May 14, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers: Marques Johnson Getty Images

If Marques Johnson was before your time, you missed getting to watch a heck of a player. The 6’8” swingman was physical inside but with a great touch on his jumper. He was the college player of the year in 1977, was the No. 3 pick in the draft and went on to have an 11-year NBA career where he was a five-time All-Star, three times made the All NBA Team, and for his career he averaged 20 points and 7 rebounds a game. He could flat out ball.

During part of that career he played for Donald Sterling’s Clippers. Back when Sterling was far more hands on in the day-to-day of the business — which led to some stunning stories.

Johnson is now an analyst for Fox Sports, and was on Fox Sports 1 Tuesday during the “America’s Pregame” show when he told his Sterling story.

“A quick story — in 1986, I had what was really a career-ending neck injury and in 1987, I lost a son in a drowning accident. An intermediary told me to call Donald because he wanted to reach out and talk to me about a contract dispute [after the season]. I called Donald up and he told me he was going to ruin me, that he was going to crush me financially, and that I needed to go ahead and settle on his terms if I wanted to have any money left. He talked to me to me like I was a piece of just bat guano.”

“Donald Sterling, Shelly Sterling, they’ve got to be relieved of their duties as owners of this basketball team. You’ve got to have a complete break in order for this thing to go away.”

There are more of these kinds of stories all over the NBA, especially from the late 1980s and into the next decade when Sterling was very involved in running the Clippers — all for a profit. He was a racist and a bully then, things have not changed now.

Johnson has some understandable anger but sounded like a lot of players past and present when talking about Sterling.

“It’s to the point now that if you’re Adam Silver, you’ve got to get this thing away from this guy by any means necessary. I don’t care how much it costs, you’ve got to get him to sell this basketball team.”

  1. nolanwiffle - May 14, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Loved those Bucks teams with Johnson, Bob Lanier, Quinn Buckner, Junior Bridgeman, Sidney Moncrief, etal. They were just never quite as good as the Sixers and Celtics teams of that era.

    • weaselpuppy - May 14, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      much like the Pressey/Cummings/Moncrief/Pierce next decade crew that was fun to watch, won 50 games a year but never advanced past Boston/Philly/Detroit

    • nyctraffic - May 15, 2014 at 2:54 AM

      Great uniforms, too. Forest green with red trim and the cool side pattern. Even the Mecca court had a great look with those huge muted M’s. And I’m not even a Milwaukee fan.

  2. ranfan12 - May 14, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    Not your average contract negotiation…

  3. 407magic - May 14, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Figures that David stern let this go on for 30 yrs. glad that scumbag is gone. Now time to get rid of other scumbag(s)

    • sportsfan18 - May 14, 2014 at 2:20 PM

      And many of the other owners were there and KNEW of his antics for 30 yrs too…

      Also, Silver has been in the NBA like 22 yrs too…

      Sterling has been Sterling for a LONG time and MANY in the NBA were aware… NOT just David Stern…

  4. chargerdillon - May 14, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    Sterling didn’t become so rich by being generous. In fact he was so cheap he did his own negotiating to cut down on the costs of paying somebody to do it for him.

    I would venture to say if we dug into most of these NBA owners backgrounds we would find similar business negotiating going on.

    • gs7101 - May 14, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Sterling is a dumb ass, but his ass isn’t dumb; that’s why he was able to con and build his billion-dollar empire. Today, he cannot get away with treating people like crap — the plantation days are over and he’s beginning to get the message!

    • antistratfordian - May 14, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      Yeah, I don’t think so. They may be shrewd, but most wealthy people are not that heartless.

      • tomtravis76 - May 14, 2014 at 6:15 PM

        In pro sports, everyone on the business side is a line item. You are told its just business, but it’s always personal.

      • antistratfordian - May 14, 2014 at 6:48 PM

        There are all sorts of ways to do business and the way that Sterling did business was unique, to say the least.

      • don444 - May 21, 2014 at 8:09 AM

        tomtravis76- Are you claiming that every business decision made within pro sports is, at its essence, personal? Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but if not that particular belief of yours is simply not true, especially in this era. Objectivity and good sense certainly do not ALWAYS win the day, but every last decision that’s made is not personal and wholly subjective.

  5. azarkhan - May 14, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    The Sterling stories have become as boring as the Carmelo-Knicks-Jackson stories you guys ran ad nauseam earlier this year.

    • raysfan1 - May 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      And yet you keep clicking on them, reading them, and commenting on them.

      • azarkhan - May 14, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        I don’t read the articles, so waste your clichéd response on somebody else.

      • hwatt - May 14, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        you missed his point. You clicked on it, and now we’re commenting on it. NBC Sports and all these advertised don’t give two focks if you don’t read the content. But go ahead, continue to come back and give this article more clicks. moron.

      • azarkhan - May 14, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        @hwatt, to reply to a moron I had to click on the article. Get it moron?

      • raysfan1 - May 14, 2014 at 2:18 PM

        Leaving uncalled for personal insults aside, you should realize that in opening the article to comment on it–even if only to tell everyone how boring you think it is–you increase the article’s page view count. That in turn drives more articles on the topic because you just made it look more popular/interesting and that equates to advertising dollars. If you really find the whole thing boring and want the articles to go away, stop clicking on the article, stop spitting into the wind. There are lots of other articles to read instead.

    • painted8 - May 14, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      How do you know the article is boring if you didn’t read it, Gomer?

    • don444 - May 21, 2014 at 7:59 AM

      The Sterling saga is an important one on many levels regardless of whether you find it boring or not, so really, just shut your mouth and get lost.

  6. djshnooks - May 14, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Pretty weak “story.”

    An owner trying to get a player to sign.

    • dysyodaddy - May 14, 2014 at 2:28 PM

      thats not at all what the story was. comprehension problems?

    • don444 - May 21, 2014 at 7:56 AM

      Not very bright are you? Must do better, dimwit.

  7. tombstone7 - May 14, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    I wonder how Sterling would react if Magic Johnson said ALL Jews are Stingy!

    The Sterlings need to go into oblivion….as well as his well-publicize “mistress!”

    Sterling had the audacity to call Magic out forhis sexual escapades whe his “mistress” ratted him out…….the guy is rich and dumb.

    David Stern, you did nothing to resolve this and left it for someone else to clean up, much like David O’ Brion when you were young kid on the block! Again, rich and dumb!

  8. rickditka - May 14, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    The NBA decided to fortify Donald Sterlings team with Chris Paul. And in the next disastrous move told the world that Sterling was out of the league. I can’t wait for the next stupid decision.

    The Adam Silver Era is a failure.

    • ProBasketballPundit - May 14, 2014 at 7:01 PM

      Man, you know so much I can’t believe they didn’t appoint you commissioner.

  9. dinofrank60 - May 14, 2014 at 11:44 PM

    Not only was Marques a star in the NBA, not only was Marques deserving of all his accolades at UCLA, he was a legend at Crenshaw High.

  10. don444 - May 21, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    Circumstances have changed at least to some degree in the sense that he’s a tired, unhealthy, largely worn out 80-year-old man these days whereas it’s not hard to imagine just how formidable and intimidating a figure he represented to those around him and below him as a much younger and healthier man 25, 30 years ago. Any billionaire is endowed with a certain level of influence and power that 99.9% of the world’s population can only daydream about, obviously, but no, to state the Donald Sterling of 2014 is the EXACT same small-minded, bullying racist of 1986 is to miss the point and overstate the case to a degree. I suspect Sterling and his laughably disingenuous “wife” may ultimately be able to draw out this whole ugly affair longer than the NBA hierarchy is comfortable with if he does choose to expend the energy and resources to fight it tooth and nail, but yes, he is destined to lose this battle in the end and I’m guessing as a once-brilliant lawyer he’s anything but wholly unaware of that.

  11. Kurt Helin - May 14, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    Then you don’t remember him.

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