There’s never a dull year in the world of sports, and 2014 was certainly no exception. While it definitely had its low points (Donald Sterling, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson), 2014 still produced more than its fair share of memorable games, performances and moments, so let’s take a look back at some of the best things that the world of sports had to offer in 2014.
In the most expected legal maneuver since Vinny Gambini called Mona Lisa Vito as a witness, ousted Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has appealed the ruling that approved the team’s sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
On Friday, lawyers for Sterling asked the Second District Court of Appeals to stay a probate judge’s ruling that essentially approved the sale. Sterling’s representatives claim the judge prematurely finalized his ruling so the sale could be completed without the chance for an appeal.
It is unlikely that the action will have any effect since the sale would likely be able to go forward while the appeal moves through the courts. The judge barred any delays in the sale pending appeal.
Shelly Sterling, Donald’s estranged wife, negotiated a $2 billion sale after the NBA banned the 80-year-old owner for life after he was recorded making offensive remarks about minorities.
Regardless of Sterling’s legal maneuvering, the sale is a foregone conclusion. The NBA and commissioner Adam Silver will not allow him to own a franchise and if they did players have already threatened a boycott. It won’t happen, Sterling is done and out no matter what happens with the legal system.
This week NBA Commissioner Adam Silver floated the idea of a midseason single-elimination NBA Tournament.
What’s not to like about his grandiose vision?
The format works well for March Madness. My critique of the NBA playoffs is seeing too much of the same teams. Six weeks of Lance Stephenson can be a bit much.
I enjoy the entire product. Being in the Minnesota market I got a chance to watch Kevin Love frequently, whose team had the misfortune of being in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture. Ditto for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.
Meanwhile the NBA playoffs drag through the entire spring into summer. February marks the dog days of the pro basketball season. There are plenty of games, but not at anywhere close to playoff intensity. A midseason “NBA Cup” format would change that. A fortnight from Feb. 15 until March 1 would work perfectly, as it is one of the deader periods on the sports calendar and would immediately rival the NCAA’s March Madness.
Did I mention single-elimination and brackets? If people with no other interest suddenly care about Murray State for pseudo-betting purposes, we can do the same for the Detroit Pistons.
Rather than argue pros and cons, I offer a prototype bracket based on the final 2013-14 regular-season standings.
Ideally, a proposed NBA Cup would be in conjunction with an expansion to 32 teams. For the prototype, I added the “Seattle Sonics” and “Austin Legends.” And as fate would have it, look who the 31st-seeded Sonics draw in Round 1!
There would be intrigue throughout the brackets, giving a much-needed stage to the entire league.
– The Spurs would get the Wichita State treatment in their bracket. Kevin Love and the Timberwolves would potentially lurk in Round 2, followed possibly by the Golden State Warriors in a regional final. Any takers for guarding Steph Curry in a one-game format?
– The fourth-seeded Pacers and fifth-seeded Heat would be on a collision course in their bracket, whetting appetites for a potential playoff rematch. That is if they don’t look past the No. 12 Suns or No. 13 Bulls. It would likely be in a losing cause, but Michael Carter-Williams could show off against the Pacers in Round 1.
– The Clippers would likely roll over the No. 30 Bucks in Round 1. But the real story might be Blake Griffin and Giannis Antetokounmpo trading highlight-reel plays on a national stage. The No. 22 Cavaliers will obviously be contenders in 2014-15, but Kyrie Irving’s 2014 squad would have been a trendy upset pick over the No. 11 Raptors.
– The No. 25 Lakers and No. 26 Celtics took their lumps this year, but a tourney would have provided an opportunity to gauge progress. Brad Stevens has a little experience with tournaments, a deep run would put another stamp on his resume. And if Kobe Bryant was healthy he would get an opportunity to prove he is still among the greats of the game with the one-and-done format.
Silver’s proposed plan involves holding the entire 31-game event in Las Vegas. There are definitely enough venues to make it work. It would be a two-week gathering of basketball junkies from near and far.
For my template I chose four random cities to host the first two rounds. By simple rotation each franchise would host a “regional” once every eight years. It would be a chance for fans in various market to sample other teams over the course of several days. The final rounds could then be held in a domed venue like the Final Four.
Seeds could be set following games of Jan. 31, giving fans and the media two weeks to analyze brackets before tournament play begins. Again, extra attention would likely go to franchises not normally talked about in the middle of a regular season campaign. Teams might even make trades in anticipation of the tourney, seeking the splash that a deep run would produce.
With the bracket shown above, I put in one-game simulations for a hypothetical tournament and here is what the computer spat out. I stress this is a dramatization and has not occurred in any way, shape or form.
There were minor upsets along with the the Milwaukee Bucks somehow advancing to the national semifinal. The championship game featured Kevin Durant and the Thunder taking home their first trophy.
Could the Greek Freak take off and lead his team to three straight upsets? That would be the beauty of the format.
On Monday the NBA officially charged Donald Sterling with damaging the league and its teams with his racist comments, and set up a hearing on June 3 where the other owners could vote to terminate his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The league additionally said that the banned owner has conducted himself in a way that has damaged its relationships with fans and merchandising partners. Basically, the NBA claims Sterling is bad for business and is a horrible representative for the league, so he has to go.
In a statement the league said the following:
All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA constitution and related agreements.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and issued a $2.5 million fine after the release of a recording in which he made racist comments to his mistresses, V. Stiviano. He has until May 27 to respond to the charge and can appear at the June 3 hearing and present his case to the NBA’s board of governors. If he doesn’t respond to the charges or appear at the hearing, it would be deemed an admission of his guilt according to the NBA’s constitution.
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is the chairman of the board of governors and will preside over the hearing. The hearing will likely last two days and is set for just before the NBA Finals. If two-thirds of the owners vote to oust him, Sterling will be forced to sell the team.
Silver is confident he has to votes to boot Sterling.
The NBA’s statement about the charges continued:
Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and ‘minorities’; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities.
Mr. Sterling’s actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA’s efforts to promote player diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA’s relationship with its fan; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA’s relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders.
From that statement, two things are clear: 1. Whoever is writing the NBA’s press releases loves semi-colons, and 2. Sterling is done, he has zero chance.
A significant number of sponsors immediately suspended their deals with the Clippers and several prominent players have claimed they would consider a boycott next season if Sterling was still the Clippers owner. The league can’t have stuff like that hanging over its head.
There is no way the other owners don’t vote to oust him.
Even though the team is not yet officially up for sale, there is no shortage of groups interested in buying the Los Angeles Clippers. In a perfect world, Donald Sterling wouldn’t make another dime off of the team.
Ever since Donald Sterling was exposed as a racist and banned for life by the National Basketball Association, groups involving Magic Johnson, Floyd Mayweather and Oprah Winfrey have expressed interest in purchasing the franchise. There are other Los Angeles-based candidates expected to be in the mix and you can bet investors from Seattle will take a look as well.
In the end, one person will laugh all the way to the bank, and his name is Donald Sterling.
Which begs the question, if everyone is truly united against Sterling and his legacy of being a flat-out jerk, consider the sad irony of multiple parties bidding against each other to make Sterling even more filthy rich?
The answer is obvious: it is Los Angeles, and involves a franchise that’s local television rights come up for negotiation in two short years.
Frank McCourt, the previous worst owner in Los Angeles, was able to sell off the Dodgers for more than $2 billion because the team got a ridiculous 25-year television contract with Time Warner worth upwards of $8 billion.
The Clippers do not have the pedigree of the Dodgers or Lakers, but will be insanely overbid on. Consider the following:
The two most recent sales involved the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks. Those are the NBA’s two weakest links, they play before smaller crowds in outdated arenas in small markets where voters are not interested in contributing to a new facility.
The Kings and Bucks went for $534 and $550 million respectively, both league records.
So what will be the ultimate price for the Clippers with Time Warner and Fox Sports poised to pay enormous cash to televise their games until the end of time? It is likely to be shockingly high.
But back to the original question, should anyone do business with Sterling?
Yes, he will end up selling the team kicking and screaming, and he’ll likely wind up $1 billion richer as a result.
In an ideal world, everyone would just say no to him. Coach Doc Rivers and other members management would show the character to walk away, and the club would be forced to operate with a skeleton crew as all major sponsors have already bailed out.
In a perfect world the regional sports networks would also show no interest in broadcasting the team’s games and all fans would boycott the franchise and never invest another dime in tickets, parking or merchandise.
After the Clippers suffered enormous losses, the NBA would then take control of the team. As I suggested earlier this week, it would be great for the league to disband the franchise and replace with a new team, a new name, new identity and a clean slate. As it stands now, the Clippers are the dirtiest brand name in sports.
Commissioner Adam Silver has done as much he could under the NBA’s bylaws. He has banned Sterling for life and Sterling’s fellow owners will almost surely vote to force him to sell the team. And he’ll make a ton of money doing so.
In the end money and greed will both win, and Sterling will walk away from the table with everyone’s cash.
Sterling made his fortune as a slumlord. Now should be the time for Silver to play hardball with his own eviction notice, and keep the security deposit.