By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
LOS ANGELES — Leaders of the National Basketball Players Association and some of the biggest names in Los Angeles’ storied basketball history on Tuesday applauded commissioner Adam Silver for suspending Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, a landmark action that avoided a possible players boycott that could have canceled Tuesday night’s playoff game between the Warriors and Clippers.
NBA players seriously considered boycotting playoff games if Silver had not moved decisively against Sterling, said Roger Mason Jr., NBPA first vice president, said at a news conference outside City Hall shortly after Silver announced his decision in New York. Mason said he spoke Tuesday morning with Golden State veteran Jermaine O’Neal, who “pretty much said their team would be on board” with not playing Game 5 at Staples Center.
Once Silver handed out the punishment, potential repercussions that would have added a new dimension to one of the ugliest incidents in league history gave way to the union backing the commissioner in the strongest terms.
“If you see a cancer, you’ve got to cut it out real quickly,” said Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, an adviser to the NBPA while the group searches for a new director. “And commissioner Silver did that in real time.”
“I’m just thrilled with what commissioner Silver did,” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, on hand for the announcement with A.C. Green, Luke Walton, Norm Nixon, Tyson Chandler, Steve Nash and Mason, along with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and other top city government officials.
“This wasn’t really about black and white,” Mason said. “This was about right and wrong.”
Johnson evoked the names of Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson and Jason Collins in saying the action by the league rates as a historical time in protesting and answering discrimination in sports.
“I believe today stands as one of those great moments,” Johnson said, adding, “The players spoke, they acted, they were listened to.”
Said Abdul-Jabbar, who first came to Los Angeles as a UCLA freshman in 1965 and later spent 14 seasons with the Lakers: “It’s going to be a new day here in this city.”