NBA accepts Clippers sale to Steve Ballmer; Donald Sterling sues NBA


The National Basketball Assn. announced a settlement with Shelly Sterling and the Sterling Family Trust on Friday afternoon to allow the Los Angeles Clippers to be sold to Steve Ballmer. A vote of the Board of Governors will be needed to make the sale final.

In exchange, the NBA will end its attempt to terminate the Sterlings’ ownership of the franchise.

But minutes before the NBA’s statement on the matter, Donald Sterling sued the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver for damages in excess of $1 billion in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.


In the complaint obtained by The Times, Sterling alleged the NBA committed antitrust violations, breached contracts and denied his constitutional rights.

After an audio recording of Sterling disparaging blacks became public in April, Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and started the process to end the Sterlings’ ownership of the team he purchased in 1981.

Sterling’s lawsuit calls the punishments “draconian” and alleges they were based on an “illicit” recording.

Late Thursday, Shelly Sterling agreed to sell the Clippers to Ballmer for an NBA-record $2 billion. An attorney for Donald Sterling, however, disputed Thursday that a sale could proceed without his client’s approval.

The Sterlings own the team jointly through the Sterling Family Trust. The trust is one of the plaintiffs in Friday’s lawsuit against the NBA and part of the settlement announced by the NBA.

In Sterling’s 32-page response to the NBA’s charges, he claimed the recording was illegal and that he shouldn’t be punished for a private conversation. Sterling’s cover letter to the response hinted at litigation.


“Therefore, I have no alternative but to exercise my legal rights,” he wrote.

As part of the announced settlement, the NBA canceled the Board of Governors meeting scheduled for Tuesday to vote on terminating the Sterlings’ ownership.

Sterling’s attorney, Maxwell Blecher, represented the owner in litigation with the NBA when he moved the Clippers from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984. The parties reached an out-of-court settlement in 1987 in which the Clippers remained in Los Angeles in exchange for $5.7 million, its share of expansion revenue from four new teams added to the league.