NBA: Magic Johnson says no Sterling should own Clippers

Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson on Sunday reiterated his belief that the National Basketball Association (NBA) must oust embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and said players will not play for his wife, Shelly, either. -- FILE P
Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson on Sunday reiterated his belief that the National Basketball Association (NBA) must oust embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and said players will not play for his wife, Shelly, either. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson on Sunday reiterated his belief that the National Basketball Association (NBA) must oust embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and said players will not play for his wife, Shelly, either.

Johnson is a beloved figure in Los Angeles after leading the Lakers to five NBA titles before his retirement in 1991 after announcing that he was HIV-positive.

He made brief comebacks, one as coach of the Lakers, before becoming a successful businessman, and in 2012 led a group that purchased baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers for US$2.15 billion (S$2.68 billion).

He has applauded NBA commissioner Adam Silver's move to ban 80-year-old Sterling for life and fine him US$2.5 million over racist remarks, which were made in a private conversation but later made public.

NBA owners are now proceeding with plans to strip Sterling of his ownership, a move that could end with him selling the team or instigating a court battle to keep it.

In another complication, Sterling's estranged wife has said she wants to maintain an ownership stake in the club.

Johnson, attending the Clippers' home play-off game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, was asked by an ABC television interviewer if Shelly Sterling was a viable owner.

"First the fans wouldn't like it," Johnson said. "The players definitely wouldn't like it, everybody would boycott.

"And then the sponsors have already made themselves clear that they wouldn't be sponsoring this team if either Sterling stayed on as an owner."

Johnson, whose photo with Sterling's girlfriend in part prompted the owners' tirade, had said he would not attend a Clippers game while Sterling was still the owner.

However, after Silver's tough action he relaxed his stance.

On Friday, the NBA named Richard Parsons, the former chairman of media giant Time Warner and Citigroup, as interim chief executive of the Clippers.

But the process of stripping Sterling of the club and forcing a sale will be lengthy - even if he does not challenge it as he is widely expected to do.

So while Johnson has already been mentioned as a potential buyer for the club, which could sell for upwards of US$600 million, he said it was too soon to discuss that possibility.

"I would definitely take a look at it because I am a businessman," he said. "But we here in Los Angeles, whether it's myself or somebody else, we just want an owner who will include everybody, who will understand diversity and not include all races of people."

Johnson praised Clippers players and coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers for their poise during the scandal, which blew up in the midst of their NBA first-round Western Conference play-off series against the Golden State Warriors.

"We've got to give coach Rivers a lot of credit and then the Clippers players, their leader Chris Paul, for rallying together and first ousting the Golden State Warriors and then playing a good physical series here today," he said.

The Clippers edged out the Warriors 4-3 and are tied 2-2 with the Thunder in their semi-final series after beating Oklahoma 101-99 on Sunday.