Courtside

06.13.14

Donald Sterling’s Very Own Shark Tank

The addled Clippers owner is siccing a team of private investigators on the NBA’s leadership to sniff out others’ dirt and possible discrimination. Why? Because he can.

Did you think the world might finally be done with Donald Sterling, the demented, disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner? Well, he will not be going gentle into that good night at all, choosing instead to literally rage, rage against the dying of light.

According to an Associated Press report, he has hired four separate private investigators to find instances of bigotry, racism, sexism, and/or homophobia on the part of the NBA’s other 29 owners—anything really that might be used as a cudgel in his ill-considered, futile attempt to hold on to his team.

The AP also reported that Sterling’s team of private dicks was given, “a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league’s finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past Commissioner David Stern and current Commissioner Adam Silver.”

“The gloves are off, as they say,” the AP’s anonymous source said. “Have them dig up all the dirt they can find.”

The hiring of private investigators is what he was hinting at in his statement this past Tuesday, in which he screeched that the NBA was taking away his right to free speech and that it, not he, actually was the real hotbed of discrimination.

Here’s the full statement:

Yes, the same Donald Sterling that just this month was sued by an ex-employee for sexual harassment is employing the time-tested “I am rubber; you are glue” defense. The irony would almost be crushing, if it weren’t so grimly bleak. And unless there’s been a coverup of colossal proportions by the NBA, this isn’t a real thing.

While there have been charges leveled against players in the past, such as Eddy Curry and Monta Ellis, the former was dismissed and the latter ended with a settlement.

You might even think that one of Sterling’s lawyers would have the basic decency to do everything in his or her power to persuade him to put an end to all this and walk away, but no.

The only instance in which ownership was involved was the New York Knicks. After the team settled with Anucha Browne Sanders for $11.6 million, then-Commissioner Stern made it clear in no uncertain terms that this was not to be tolerated. While never publicly stated, it’s also assumed that Stern behind the scenes pushed owner James Dolan to fire the individual at the center of these charges, Isiah Thomas.

There is also this ongoing case against the NBA for gender discrimination, but it remains unresolved.

If this all seems like madness on the part of deposed King Donald, well, it’s because that’s not far from the truth.

As ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne detailed, as part of a separate legal proceeding, he’s also taking his wife, Shelly, to court  to overturn the determination that he was mentally incapacitated, which gave her control of the Sterling family trust and the ability to sell the team to Steve Ballmer.

There will be a four-day trial starting July 7, but court documents have already leaked revealing details, including that Sterling couldn’t spell the word “world” backward, tell what season it was, properly draw a clock, or remember things after two minutes. According to the doctors that examined him this past May, he suffers from, “mild cognitive impairment consistent with early Alzheimer’s disease,” and that he has incurred “mild atrophy” of brain tissue, providing “solid grounds for the determination that Mr. Donald T. Sterling lacks the capacity to function as trustee of the Sterling family estate.”

To be clear, regardless of what Sterling’s shamuses are able to uncover, even if Sterling does manage to eek out a victory in his $1 billion suit against the league (he won’t), he’s actually just suing himself. As a part of his wife’s sale of the team, she agreed to indemnify the NBA and Steve Ballmer against any and all damages, meaning that the Sterling Family Trust would end up paying the money to Donald Sterling.

The only card that he has left in his ever-dwindling deck is to make life as miserable as possible for the NBA, threatening to air all of its dirty laundry (assuming his crack squad can find anything scurrilous or shameful worth exposing).

If you’re looking for motivation outside of the fact that these are the actions of a man that can’t tell time, his lawyer, Bobby Savini, explained to ESPN that, “A week ago, he would have considered [selling]. But the NBA didn’t want to give him his dignity. They want to disgrace him. They were looking for a reason to push him out.”

That’s right, dignity. It’s the NBA that has taken away Sterling’s “dignity.”

But no, there’s no rhyme or reason to any of this. It’s an angry, incapacitated old man who feels like he’s being persecuted, and as such is lashing out like a cornered wolverine in any and every way possible.

As the AP’s source stated, “Even if it gets [him] nothing other than exposing all these guys and shaking up the league and seeing a change in the leadership of the league, it’ll be worth it to him.”

You might even think that one of Sterling’s lawyers would have the basic decency to do everything in his or her power to persuade him to put an end to all this and walk away, but no. Instead, they’re confirming all of the worst stereotypes about the legal profession and continuing to rack up gobs of billable hours at the expense of a man that clearly doesn’t have all his faculties intact.

So for a few more months, this sad, money-soaked version of King Lear performed by a particularly venal, geriatric cast of Real Housewives-ish actors will continue apace, until the courts laugh at his ridiculous legal challenge, and finally Sterling is left alone on some sun-drenched Los Angeles heath, barking at the storm, without even an attorney/Fool by his side.