The Sterling family released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that Scott Sterling, 32, was suffering from diabetes.
"Our son Scott has fought a long and valiant battle against Type 1 Diabetes," the statement read. "His death is a terrible tragedy, the effects of which will be felt forever by our family and all those who knew and loved him. We sincerely appreciate the warm outpouring of sympathy and support from so many of our dear friends."
Homicide detectives were called to Sterling's apartment complex in the 22600 block of Pacific Coast Highway about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and they found him dead on the couch. He had not been seen by family and friends for at least two days, authorities said. There were no signs of foul play, officials said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said a person "checked on" Sterling and then called authorities.
Sheriff's detectives said preliminary evidence suggested Sterling died of a drug overdose but stressed a cause of death would be determined in the coming weeks by the coroner's office. Officials said that they did not know what kind of drugs were involved and whether Sterling was taking any types of prescription medications at the time of his death. It was also unclear whether Sterling's diabetic condition played a role in his death.
"All questions will be answered when the coroner does its autopsy and the toxicology tests come back," Whitmore said.
Current and past NBA players offered the family condolences via Twitter. Magic Johnson and the Clippers Chris Paul were among the many who publicly expressed their sympathy.
"Today the thoughts and prayers of our organization go out to Donald T. and Shelly Sterling and their children Chris and Joanna, in the wake of this tragic loss," said Clippers' President Andy Roeser in a statement. "Scott was a friend to many in the Clippers' family and he will be greatly missed."
Despite being the son of one of the Southland's most famous real estate moguls, Sterling kept a low profile. Few details about his personal life or employment were available Wednesday.
Sterling was arrested in 1999 in Beverly Hills in connection with the shooting of childhood friend Philip Scheid. Sterling was never charged in the case.
Sterling's death shook the tight-knit residents of the beachfront apartment complex in Malibu. One woman said some residents gathered outside in the courtyard part of Wednesday morning talking about their neighbor. A friend said the news of Scott Sterling's death kept him up all night.
At the time of his death, Sterling was living in the Malibu Beach Villas complex on Pacific Coast Highway. The property is owned by the Donald T. Sterling Trust, according to property records. Units there are advertised as being "ultra luxurious."
One man held a spotted, white hound dog at the end of a leash. The animal belonged to Sterling, he said. The man, who would not give his name, described Sterling as "intelligent and kind."
Another neighbor, who also declined to be identified, described Sterling as a "nice guy" who would wave and say hello when they crossed paths.
"It's a sad day here," the resident said. "We're all still in shock."
Times staff writers Kate Mather and Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.