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Los Angeles Daily News

Tuesday July 29, 2014

Magic Johnson, Clipper Darrell Excited About Sterling Ruling

By Jack Wang

With her attorney Pierce O'Donnell, right, Shelly Sterling, center, talks to reporters after a judge ruled in her favor and against her estranged husband, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, in his attempt to block the $2 billion sale of the NBA basketball team, outside Los Angeles Superior Court, Monday, July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

At a Lakers' press conference introducing its new head coach Tuesday, team legend Magic Johnson was asked about — of all things — the Clippers.

"What's my reaction to the Sterling ruling?" he responded.

And then he smiled.

The NBA Hall of Famer was at ground zero of the Donald Sterling saga, one near a potential end Monday when a judge's tentative ruling cleared the way for the Clippers' $2 billion sale.

In late April, Sterling's racist comments — including ones specifically naming Johnson — were published on TMZ, prompting the NBA to ban the longtime franchise owner for life.

On Monday, Judge Michael Levanas ruled heavily in Shelly Sterling's favor, allowing her to complete the record sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

It's not quite over. Donald Sterling's attorneys still have 10 days to file objections. Even after the ruling is finalized, they can file a writ contesting a specific portion of the ruling. Sterling also has another lawsuit pending in federal court.

Still, an end is at least in sight.

Perhaps no one was happier than Clipper Darrell, who declared in a phone interview Tuesday "a new era in NBA Clipper basketball!"

For years, Darrell Bailey has held the de facto role of the Clippers' biggest fan, dressing up in his half-red, half-blue suit and cheering from the same spot in Staples Center: Section 107, Row 9, Seat 21. Hearing Sterling's comments and watching him fight to keep the team was, he said, "like a stab in the heart."

Bailey had been sitting on his couch busy with work Monday afternoon when news of the ruling popped up on his Twitter feed. He turned on his TV and rejoiced.

"It's a beautiful thing," he said. "Now we can move on. We can forget about the past and move on to the future."

Asked where the ruling stands among his most memorable moments as a fan, Bailey demurred. He tried to divorce the last three months from what he wanted to focus on: the basketball.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has been a vocal proponent of seeing the Clippers sold, and has repeatedly said the team needs an owner that reflects the "values" of Los Angeles .

On Tuesday, the mayor said in a statement that he "hopes to see a swift change in ownership" and that he looks forward to working with Ballmer.

"Clippers fans want the action to be on the court, not in the courtroom," said Garcetti, who met with Ballmer at City Hall in May, the day after the former Microsoft executive signed a deal to buy the team.

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said in a statement he was glad the court was able to render a decision so quickly.

"The Clipper franchise and the City of L.A. will now get a fresh start, and an opportunity to put this sad chapter behind us, and that's a good thing," Wesson said.

The public sale agreement with Ballmer includes numerous perks for Shelly Sterling, including a pair of courtside seats and the lifetime title of "Clipper's Number 1 Fan."

Bailey said he didn't mind.

"The fans know, the public knows, everybody knows," he said. "You can't name yourself that. You've got to be that. People know. It doesn't bother me one bit. I wish her the best."

But not everyone was pleased this week that Shelly Sterling could continue to have involvement with the Clippers.

Los Angeles-based housing rights advocate Larry Gross is critical of Donald and Shelly's record on housing rights issues, and allegations of racism by Shelly, which her lawyers have denied. After Monday's court verdict, Gross took to Twitter to complain the judge's decision isn't a "total Sterling exorcism."

"If Shelly Sterling is involved, players, (Coach Doc) Rivers, & fans should still shun team," wrote Gross, the executive director for the Coalition for Economic Survival.

Others were more forgiving.

"The more the merrier," Bailey said. "I welcome her with open arms."

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