Donald Sterling verbally attacks NBA, lawyer in trial testimony

Donald Sterling verbally attacks NBA, lawyer in trial testimony
Clippers owner Donald Sterling at a Clippers game at Staples Center in April. Sterling testified Tuesday at a trial that could determine the future of the Clippers franchise. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Sterling assailed the NBA, attacked two doctors who declared him mentally incapacitated and ridiculed opposing lawyer Bert Fields during almost an hour of rambling, contentious testimony Tuesday afternoon.

Sterling took the stand in the second day of the trial in Los Angeles Superior Court that could determine whether he remains Clippers owner.


In a sweltering courtroom without an empty seat, the 80-year-old Sterling called the 85-year-old Fields a "smartass," told him to "stand up and be a man" and insisted every minute or two that the attorney needed to speak up.

"I thought you were going to make me cry," Sterling told Fields, part of the team representing Shelly Sterling. "Isn't that what you said in the paper?"

Sterling didn't deviate from his decades-long reputation as a difficult witness. He repeatedly claimed not to remember facts. He tried to take control of the proceedings, telling Fields when to ask questions. He shifted from tears to sharp words in an instant. He objected to questions. He left the courtroom laughing and, at times, gasping while Judge Michael Levanas tried to maintain control.

"You're wrong, like you've been wrong on every question today," Sterling told Fields.

"How can you be wrong when you ask a question?" Levanas said.

Sterling claimed he can sell the Clippers for $2.5 billion to $5 billion, more than the $2 billion Steve Ballmer agreed to pay in the deal negotiated by Shelly Sterling.

Donald Sterling also testified that his wife represented the two competency exams to him as routine appointments to be done in conjunction with his 80th birthday. Shelly Sterling, dressed in all black, didn't appear to make eye contact with her husband until his testimony began.

"She's terrified and frightened of this NBA that threatened to take everything away from her," Donald Sterling said. "She's a good person, but they're not good people."

He appeared to start crying, apologized and his voice immediately turned combative. Minutes later, Sterling said his wife “can’t run anything,” but that she is “beautiful and wonderful and intelligent.”

Sterling saved much of his vitriol for Fields. He started his testimony by asking Fields for his name, then eventually mocked the attorney's questions.

"Oh, you're really terrific," Sterling told Fields, sarcastically.

Near the end of his testimony, Sterling asked Fields how long he's practiced law in response to a question.

"That's not an answer," Levanas said.

"I don't think you've been practicing very long," Sterling said, ignoring the judge.


Fields, who kept an even voice during the exchanges, graduated from law school in 1952.

Later, Sterling responded while he's being questioned: "I've never met a lawyer like this before."

After Levanas adjourned court for the day, Sterling continued.

"Are you finished with me, counsel?" Sterling said.

Sterling's testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.