Shelly Sterling says family didn't talk to her after sale of Clippers

Shelly Sterling says family didn't talk to her after sale of Clippers
Shelly Sterling attends a game between the Clippers and Portland in March. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

After Shelly Sterling sold the Clippers to Steve Ballmer without her husband's consent, there was quite a fallout.

"My family didn't talk to me for a while, because I was selling the team," Shelly told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN in a sit-down interview. "They were all against me."


Shelly was able to sell the team without Donald Sterling's approval after three psychologists said he showed signs of Alzheimer's disease, concluding he was no longer fit to make decisions about his legal affairs.

"It was very difficult for me to lose the team," Shelly told ESPN. "It was like my family. I've seen [the Clippers] grow for 33 years. The coach [Doc Rivers] used to be our player. And now to see his son [Austin Rivers] play, it's like part of your family."

The NBA demanded that the Sterlings sell the team after an audiotape of Donald making racist remarks was leaked to the media. Shelly took matters into her own hands by selling the team to Ballmer for a record $2 billion on May 29, 2014. Donald Sterling tried to stop the sale by filing multiple lawsuits against the NBA and Shelly; some are pending.

"I never wanted to sell it, and we never would've sold it," Shelly told ESPN. "But I didn't want to see it being dismantled. I mean, maybe they wouldn't even play for the whole year. I didn't know what the league was going to do. The only thing I knew is that I had to keep the team from being dismantled."

The selling of the team, however, was put into motion by an earlier move by Shelly, unknowingly to her at the time. Shelly sued her husband's companion, V. Stiviano, for $2 million in real estate, cars and jewelry that Donald had given Stiviano, arguing that they were community property.

The audiotape of Donald making racially insensitive remarks about black people to Stiviano was released to TMZ two months later.

"Every time I would see her, she would just be so arrogant and mean," Shelly told ESPN of Stiviano. "I was told by everyone I know that I wouldn't win, that I shouldn't do it. But I just felt I had to do something to make me feel like a person. I felt that I had to do it for a lot of women. There's so many girlfriends of mine that have the same problem, but they are afraid to do anything. It was not about the money. It was about cleansing my body."

Shelly and Donald now live apart, Shelly in Malibu and Donald in Beverly Hills. But they see each other once in a while.

"We're in each other's lives and we probably always will be," Shelly said. "We're together sometimes, and sometimes not together."

Shelly said that she doesn't hold grudges against Donald for the disparaging remarks that her husband publicly made against her, including calling her a pig in court.

"I knew he didn't mean it," Shelly told ESPN. "He was just hurt. People say things when they're hurt. It's always been hard for him to hold back what he feels."

Though Donald was banned from attending NBA games after the audiotape was released, Shelly has kept going to Clippers games.

"I don't think I did anything to hurt them," Shelly told ESPN. "And I hope they never felt that I did. If anything, I was trying to save the team from being dismantled."

Shelly was at Game 6 of the Clippers second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets in which the Clippers blew a 19-point third quarter lead by getting outscored in the fourth quarter, 40-15. The Clippers had a 3-1 lead over the Rockets in that series, before losing three games in a row, allowing the Rockets to become just the ninth team in NBA history to recover from such a deficit to advance to the next round.


In Times columnist Bill Plaschke's story on that game, he called Shelly's arrival in the first quarter of that game an "omen."

"If I was the black cloud, how did we get 19 points up while I was there? That hurt me very much," Shelly told ESPN. "But what can I do? Can you fight The Times?"

Even though the Clippers have never made it past the second round in their 45-year existence, Shelly, who has labeled herself the team's No. 1 fan, said she doesn't believe there exists such a thing as a Clipper Curse.

"I don't call it a 'Clipper Curse,'" Shelly said. "Look at the Lakers. Kobe's been hurt the last two years. What about Oklahoma [City]? They lost Kevin Durant, they didn't get into the playoffs. Is that a curse? I just call it part of the game."

Follow Melissa Rohlin on Twitter @MelissaRohlin