Magic Johnson was on hand at Lakers press conference Tuesday to help introduce Byron Scott as the team’s new coach. Afterward, he spoke to some reporters, at least one of whom had the bright idea to ask Johnson for his reaction to the Donald Sterling trial, in which a judge ruled that the Clippers could be sold to Steve Ballmer.
Johnson told the reporters, “What’s my reaction to the Sterling ruling? What would you think my reaction is? You see this? I’m gonna let you see.”
And with that, the Lakers great leaned back and offered a big, magical smile. Then he said with a chuckle, “That’s my reaction, right there.”
Johnson, you may recall, was one of the central figures in the early days of the Sterling scandal. Among the controversial remarks recorded by Sterling’s
girlfriend assistant, V. Stiviano, were some in which Sterling criticized Stiviano for posting a photo of herself with Johnson on Instagram, while telling her that it bothered him that she was “associating with black people.”
Sterling then doubled down a couple of weeks later in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, bringing up the fact that Johnson had contracted HIV and saying that the former Laker should be “ashamed of himself.” That caused NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to apologize to Johnson on behalf of the rest of the league.
So, while almost everyone in America is glad to see Sterling lose the Clippers (assuming that all proceeds as planned), Johnson could not be blamed for taking particular satisfaction.
However, after making sure everyone saw him smile, Johnson wanted to make sure reporters knew that he didn’t “have anything bad to say about [Sterling]. Like I’ve said already, been praying for the man.”
Johnson went on to praise the man bidding $2 billion to buy the Clippers, saying, “Ballmer’s going to be an exciting owner, and a good owner for the Clippers. You’re talking about a guy who wants to win, and who loves basketball, and he’s going to do everything he can to put them in a championship situation.”
Then he addressed Sterling’s wife, telling reporters, “You have to give Shelly a lot of credit. This was tough for her, but I respect what she did, and I have no ill feelings toward Donald. It’s too bad what happened, but when you’ve been discriminating against people for this long, this is what happens.”
Here’s video of Magic’s remarks: