Magic Johnson Shrugs Off 'Delusional' Donald Sterling

Racist Hoops Owner Blasted Iconic Player

getty images

By Steve Gorman

Published May 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

(Reuters) — Basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson shrugged off the latest character assault leveled at him by Donald Sterling, calling the Los Angeles Clippers owner “delusional” and suggesting Sterling acted out of desperation to keep the NBA from seizing his team.

“He’s reaching. He’s trying to find something that he can grab on to help him save his team, and it’s not going to happen,” Johnson told CNN on Tuesday, a day after Sterling accused him of being a poor role model for children and of doing little to help the black community.

Sterling’s comments about Johnson, one of the most revered figures in U.S. sports, left many scratching their heads. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement apologizing to Johnson for being “degraded by such a malicious and personal attack.”

Sterling’s CNN interview on Monday marked his first public comment since coming under fire nearly three weeks ago, when TMZ.com posted an audio recording of him berating a female friend for publicly associating with black people, including Magic Johnson.

The resulting furor led Silver days later to declare Sterling banned for life from the National Basketball Association, and to call on the 29 other team owners who make up the NBA Board of Governors to strip Sterling of team ownership.

Such an unprecedented move requires a three-fourths’ vote of the board. It remains to be seen whether Silver will muster the votes he needs, and whether Sterling will give up the team he has owned for 33 years without fighting back in court.

In his CNN interview that aired on Monday, Sterling, 80, apologized for racist comments that he claimed he was “baited” into making by the 31-year-old woman who recorded the conversation, who uses the name V. Stiviano.

He also further stoked outrage by lashing out at Johnson, the charismatic former Los Angeles Lakers point guard who stunned the sports world in 1991 when he announced he had contracted HIV and was retiring at the peak of his NBA career.

“What kind of a guy goes to every city, he has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV and - is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about?” Sterling told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I think he should be ashamed of himself.”

Going on to compare Johnson unfavorably to his own charitable work, Sterling added, “what does he do for the black people? (He) Doesn’t do anything.”

Johnson, who has acknowledged that he was infected through promiscuous unprotected sex, became a leading advocate for HIV and AIDS prevention and launched a foundation that has raised millions of dollars for AIDS-related care and education.

He also has been widely praised for teaming up with business investors to help bring development to under-served minority communities in urban areas of Los Angeles and elsewhere blighted by decades of economic decay.

“My whole life is devoted to urban America, so, you know, I just wish he knew the facts when he’s talking,” Johnson said. “I just feel sorry for him. I really do. It is sad.”

The former NBA star also disputed Sterling’s claim that Johnson called him after the audio tape surfaced and urged Sterling to keep quiet in a ploy to wrest away the Clippers.

“I never deceived anybody. I never tricked anybody. And I would never do that to gain wealth for myself or popularity for myself,” Johnson said.

He said it was Sterling who called him after the recording emerged to ask Johnson to go on television with him. Johnson said he refused.

Asked about Sterling’s claim that he is still beloved by the players on his team despite the controversy, Johnson replied: “Now he is delusional.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.