Hours after NBA Commissioner Alan Silver banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and slapped him with a $2.5-million fine Tuesday, a wave of relief and determination appeared to sweep over fans and players at Staples Center.
Clippers fans outside and inside the venue appeared jubilant for Game 5 in the playoff series, many of them bringing signs and wearing gear designed to show their solidarity with the team.
Inside, there was a standing ovation for pregame warmups and for each player when he entered the game. There was even a small standing ovation when the giant video board showed two fans wearing black shirts with Sterling's face crossed out.
Unburdened by Sterling, the Clippers pulled off a 113-103 victory over the Warriors to open a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 6 is Thursday night in Oakland.
“It seemed like a burden lifted off everyone and we could just go back to playing basketball,” Chris Paul said.
At a highly anticipated news conference earlier in the day, Silver announced that he had banned Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA and said he can't attend any games or practices. Sterling can't be present at any Clippers facilities and he can't participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.
Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million and will urge the Board of Governors to use its authority to force the billionaire to sell the team.
Sterling's downfall came when NBA officials determined that it was his voice heard on an audio recording telling a friend he was upset she posted a picture on Instagram of herself next to Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
The recording set off widespread condemnation, with players contemplating boycotts and civil rights advocates threatening protests.
But after Silver's ruling was handed down, the Staples Center crowd decided to turn what had been planned as an anti-racism protest into a victory rally, echoing the sentiments of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had gathered with NBA players and other officials on the steps of City Hall mid-Tuesday to praise the NBA sanctions against Sterling.
"We may be a two-team town, but today, we are behind one team," he said.
Game-day attire for fans consisted mostly of red Clippers gear, some turned inside out to mimic another look the Clippers sported in protest Sunday, and black shirts, which some suggested on social media as a sign of solidarity with the team.
Even other NBA teams joined in -- 11 others had the same slogan on their websites as the Clippers: “We Are One” surrounded in black.
On the way to the game, Kathy Kusner, 74, and George Myers, 73, wore matching black shirts that had the Clippers logo with "Clip Him" written across the front.
The back of the shirts had a "-1" under Sterling's name. The couple praised Silver for taking the unprecedented step of banning Sterling.
"There is a chance that this can change more than just with the Clippers," Kusner said. "This could be a nice big step in how we think about race and equality."
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