Class act that he is, Elgin Baylor would never boast I told you so. But he would certainly be justified.
It was as far back as 2009 when the Hall of Fame forward told all the world Donald Sterling is the man he’s now shown all of Hoops Nation and beyond he is over the last several weeks. Back then, Baylor sued the L.A. Clippers’ owner for race and age discrimination and though the case was ultimately tossed by a jury how hard would it have been for anyone who really wanted to know to verify the 2006 NBA executive of the year’s core claim that Sterling once directly chastised then star player Danny Manning during contract negotiations “I’m offering you a lot of money for a poor black kid.”
Thing is whether you’re Elgin Baylor, Danny Manning or now even Magic Johnson every African-American man is no more than “a poor black kid” in the blurred and demented eyes of the NBA’s longest tenured owner. For further confirmation, consider the story of how Sterling once tried to strong-arm Marques Johnson into accepting a deal on his terms or face being “financially ruined” by the multi-millionaire real estate mogul.
And just to think, Elgin Baylor tried to warn us, did so perhaps at the price of mortgaging off any remaining front office career he might have had left by daring to go against Sterling and by extension the fraternity that is the league’s 29 other team owners.
“Justice has been served,” the 79-year-old Baylor told CNN of commissioner Adam Silver’s recent decision to ban the man who has owned the Clippers since 1981 from ever doing business in the Association again and fining him a league maximum $2.5 million after a video emerged of him instructing a girlfriend “not to bring black people to my games.”
Added Baylor, “of course he is a racist. It didn’t surprise me at all. That’s the Donald Sterling I know. He says a lot of things, different things, he has different mood swings. You never know what he’s going to say or do.”
For 22 years, Elgin Baylor suffered through varying levels of such indignation as the team’s longtime GM. Were there times when he grew more frustrated and angered then others? Absolutely, like when players Sam Cassell, Corey Maggette and Elton Brand all complained to him after about Sterling regularly bringing women into the team’s locker room and marveling to them “look at those beautiful black bodies.”
And now Elgin Baylor is again trying to warn us about the sinister mind that is that of Donald Sterling, now on a media blitz that seems to include anyone willing to give him an audience.
“Donald likes the limelight,” he reflects. “Whether it’s good or bad.”
As if it could be either or where Sterling is concerned. But here’s the bigger point, back then we failed to heed Elgin Baylor’s warning, thereby ultimately doing a disservice to him, the NBA and society at large.
Here’s to denying Donald Sterling a sure-to-be, forked-tongue encore performance by taking away what would be his stage.