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Eric Freeman

Donald Sterling didn't know Elgin Baylor was a basketball star

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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In 13 NBA seasons, Elgin Baylor made 11 All-Star teams, 10 All-NBA first teams, scored more than 23,000 points, and, along with Jerry West, turned the Los Angeles Lakers into one of the league's two marquee franchises. He is by every possible metric a legend, one of the league's first athletic innovators and a no-brainer selection as one of the 50 greatest players of all-time.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling has lived in Southern California since 1935. Somehow, he was not aware of Baylor's basketball career when he hired him to be the team's general manager. No, I can't explain it either.

The truth came out during Baylor's employment discrimination suit against Sterling. From Lance Pugmire for the Los Angeles Times (via Eye on Basketball):

"You didn't know about his basketball career?" Baylor attorney Carl Douglas asked Sterling in his first day on the stand as Baylor's wrongful termination civil lawsuit against the team continued at a Los Angeles courthouse. "His accomplishments? The Hall of Fame?"

"No," Sterling answered. "... I didn't know that. I hired him for $3,000 a month. I didn't really know what his role was.... He was working in a mail-order company back then." [...]

When asked about a Baylor predecessor, Sterling said the name Carl Scheer "sounds familiar." He added, "I don't profess to know anything about basketball. I'm a professional lawyer."

It should come as little surprise that Sterling doesn't think that basketball knowledge is necessary to own an NBA team -- he's proven as much with his incompetent handling of the Clippers over several decades. That he would brazenly admit as much as a matter of public record is another story, but the man was under oath, after all. Maybe he had no choice.

In the grand scheme of things, this is one of Sterling's lesser offenses -- for instance, it comes nowhere close to this delightful tale from January. It also has little bearing on the case itself -- this suit is about discrimination and wrongful termination, not Sterling's knowledge of NBA history.

But the situation of this case doesn't make this revelation any less ridiculous. It doesn't teach us anything particularly new about Sterling, but it serves as yet another example of why this man should be nowhere near an NBA front office. Eventually, someone with more power than Sterling will have to force him to sell the team. Because it's downright unfair to the Clippers and their fans to let him stay in charge when he so clearly has no interest in doing the job well.

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