The Clippers Curse – Donald Sterling (Leadership Lessons)

Moving to Los Angeles in 1998, I had a tough choice to make. As a lifelong Mavericks fan and a Sonics fan since 1994 (Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp!), I could not stand the Lakers. Even though Kobe and I share the same last name, I could not allow myself to cheer for the team which had ruined so many of my seasons as an NBA fan. So, I did what any other person would do in my situation, I chose to cheer for the Clippers.

I did not want to be someone who roots against all of the neighbors and friends I hoped to befriend, serve, and even influence.

The Clippers play in Los Angeles, and they had never eliminated the Mavericks or Sonics in the playoffs like the Lakers had done so many times. At the same time, they had never beaten anyone in the playoffs before. That should have been the sign I needed.

It is really hard to be a Clippers fan.

Here’s the problem with choosing to become a Clippers fan: they are cursed.

Anytime something good would happen, something worse would follow. For awhile, every year would end with our best players signing contracts elsewhere. Finally, Donald Sterling (known for his stingy business practices and slumlord lawsuits) started signing some of our guys to long-term deals. Unfortunately, those we signed got injured in freakish ways. (If you are at all squeamish, don’t watch Shaun Livingston’s horrific knee injury here.) Even Blake Griffin missed his entire first season with a bizarre knee injury.

I began to wonder if Clippers Basketball was destined to remain an oxymoron – two opposite words that don’t belong together like “jumbo shrimp” or “cafeteria food.”

Now, with the best team and best coach we have ever had, a tape of Donald Sterling’s racist views has been made public. Sunday the team looked demoralized as they lost to the Warriors in the playoffs.


With a game tonight and the NBA about to announce their response to Donald Sterling, here’s what I hope happens:

1. Donald Sterling is banned from the Staples Center for the remainder of this season.

2. Clippers fans come out to support the players, coaching staff, and front office (not the owner) tonight and for the remainder of these playoffs.

By the way, of course Mark Jackson, the coach of the Warriors, wants fans to boycott the game! He wants his team to win! If he really thought this was the right way to go, then he should refuse to come to Staples Center or forfeit the season. 🙂

3. Donald Sterling repents of his prejudice views and sells the team to Magic Johnson and his group.

4. The Clippers consider a name change to represent a new future. As Michael Wilbon described: outside of the Church, nothing is more a part of the fabric of African American culture than the NBA. How cool would it be if the Clippers changed their name to honor the African American culture in some way.

5. The Clippers retain Doc Rivers and compete for the NBA championship with their core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan intact next year and into the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately this tape does not surprise me. The lawsuits brought against Donald Sterling over the years have revealed Sterling to be a very prejudiced and sleazy person.

A leadership lesson can be learned for all of us: no organization can go further than its leader can take them.

If you think your organization isn’t growing the way you’d like, first ask yourself this question: am I growing? Then consider: have we been faithful with what we have so that we can handle more?

Are the Clippers really cursed?

I think a better way to describe the ups and downs as a Clippers fan more clearly now than ever: we have reaped what the owner has sown. Some call it karma, but Jesus said: “we reap what we sow.”

I truly want the Clippers to win the championship, but I don’t want Donald Sterling to be the owner when they do.

UPDATE 8/12/14: After lots of litigation, Steve Ballmer officially purchased the L.A. Clippers!



Showing 3 comments
  • Disappointed disciple

    I wonder if we are attempting to imposing a standard on Sterling that many players could never live up to. Imagine what would happen if one of the top NBA stars was caught on tape by an angry girlfriend saying something equally offensive. Would you ban them for life? As in most cases, most people scream for justice until they are the one who falls short, then all of sudden there is a cry for mercy or grace. I think that the whole thing is a travesty. It is horrible that Sterling is a bigot but the hypocrisy from everyone else involved is sad and pathetic. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  • Hollaback Girl

    Those players don’t own an entire franchise. Nor do their actions have the same effect on corporate sponsorship.

  • Eric Michael Bryant

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    The one thing I don’t totally agree with the NBA commissioner is that this decision was based only on these TMZ recordings. Unfortunately, Donald Sterling has been inappropriate with women and minorities for years.

    I hope he chooses the path of humility just as I hope the same for those offended.

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