For most of two days, the two sports power brokers had talked openly of their shared affection, still friends after 58 years of marriage, estranged emotionally but together in their ownership of the Clippers.
Donald Sterling had called Shelly Sterling "my beautiful wife."
Shelly Sterling said she still loved her husband "very much."
But as the hearing to determine control of the Clippers' potential sale reached its critical point Wednesday, the honeymoon became a horror show.
Shelly Sterling took the stand and carefully, chillingly spoke of her husband as if he were incapacitated.
"Oh God, he's been getting more forgetful. He's slurring his words. He's agitated a lot. He gets mad for no particular reason. He's just not the same person that he used to be," she testified. "Apparently it comes with age and illness."
Then, after she stepped down from the stand and approached her husband in the courtroom's front row, he fought back with words that were most certainly not slurred, words that no one will soon forget.
"Get away from me, you pig!" he shouted, waving her off as she gasped in surprise.
Shelly began to cry as she wobbled back across the aisle, but Donald was not done yet.
"Shelly, how could you lie?" he said.
The unexpected and offensive outburst heated up the stuffy Los Angeles Superior Court room as two deputies stepped between the elderly couple while Judge Michael Levanas scolded Donald Sterling from the bench.
"Please don't make any statements to your wife," Levanas said. "It's somewhat disturbing to hear that, for everyone, I think."
Pierce O'Donnell, one of Shelly's attorneys, requested that Donald be removed. Levanas refused, then loudly repeated Donald's "pig" quote so the official record would reflect the chaos.
What is it with these Los Angeles sports power marriages, anyway? Just when this town had moved past the ugly battle between former Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, here comes another billionaire couple with 10-cent manners.
Say this much for the McCourts, though. At least Jamie never dragged Frank's medical records into a courtroom. And at least Frank never compared Jamie to livestock.
Steve Ballmer, where are you?
The three days of this hearing have offered further proof that it really doesn't matter who buys the Clippers, as long as this cranky couple is forced to sell them, and soon.
After the courtroom doors were mercifully locked late Wednesday afternoon and everyone hustled on to the sidewalk, the attorneys involved with the not-so-happy couple went flying off the top ropes and into the scrum.
Adam Streisand, Ballmer's lawyer, said of Donald's insult: "It was a shameful display by a seriously demented tyrant. His outburst … was just hideous but just reveals how demented he is."
Bobby Samini, Donald's lawyer, said: "I know that Donald was very upset by watching her testimony. I think he felt betrayed by it."
In the wake of the lifetime ban of Donald Sterling for racist comments on a secret audio recording, and with knowledge that Donald and Shelly worked closely together for his entire Clippers ownership, the NBA has pushed to have both Sterlings stripped of the franchise. After watching their act this week in court, it's hard to blame the league, as both Sterlings have revealed the sort of nastiness that would make it impossible to cheer for either one. They might not live in the same house anymore — Shelly testified they were "sort of" separated — but they can both be painted with the same brush.
Donald has shown his enormous ego by attempting to block Shelly's smart sale to Ballmer for the outrageous amount of $2 billion. Shelly, however, had already shown her callousness by bringing in two doctors during the sale process to declare Donald mentally incapacitated so he could be removed from the family trust and not be involved in the sale.
Donald has shown his selfishness by continually refusing to give up his Clippers ghost and allow his family to move forward, claiming Wednesday that "I will never, ever, ever sell this team. And until I die, I will be suing the NBA to make them pay for the terrible violations of antitrust that they have imposed on me and my family."
Shelly, however, didn't appear any more gracious when she testified that after her husband was diagnosed with symptoms of Alzheimer's, even though she claims to be his full-time caregiver, she immediately left him to go to the Polo Lounge for a happy hour consultation with Dr. Meril Sue Platzer.
"I didn't know anything about Alzheimer's and I thought, how is it going to affect my family, how is it going to affect me, how is it going to affect him?" she said, listing her husband last among her concerns. "I said to [Platzer], why don't we get some snacks and talk?"
Then she said when Donald and one of his lawyers entered the lounge and tried to join them during this difficult personal time, she suggested they sit in a different booth.
It was like this for most of three hours Wednesday, the couple repeatedly piling on each other, from veiled bullying to dire prediction to outright insult.
One minute, Donald was testifying that Shelly wasn't smart enough to sell the Clippers, saying, "I don't think she's president. I don't think she has any stock. I don't think she has any standing. She has no rights whatsoever."
The next moment, Shelly openly painted a dark picture of her husband's future should he have Alzheimer's, even as he sat directly in front her. "They can get violent, they scream a lot, they cry, really horrible things," she warned.
It is clear the Sterlings can barely be in the same room, much less own the same professional basketball franchise, although they have fought their way into its record books.
Of all the bad L.A. Clippers teams the past 30 years, Donald and Shelly Sterling are now officially the worst.
Follow Bill Plaschke on Twitter @billplaschkeCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times