Today is proof that progress is and always will be an evolutionary process.
"We are one." If only this rally cry posted on the Los Angeles Clippers website in response to the scandal involving owner Donald Sterling were a universal truth, well, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.
While actions are now set in place to ban Sterling from the NBA for life, the incident prompting “we are one” should remind us that Sterling is not the end-all, be-all face of discrimination. There are millions of other individual and institutional bigots around the globe.
Today, the United States inched closer. Unlike many other countries around the world that do little (or nothing) to prevent or punish blatantly racist actions pertaining to sporting events, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has done his best to implement justice. Unfortunately, the emergence of Sterling’s vile views is not an isolated incident.
For those of us who follow the Clippers and the NBA, as well as anyone who reads the newspaper here in Los Angeles, we’ve known all too well about Sterling’s rap sheet. ESPN wrote a horribly damaging piece back in 2009 which detailed lawsuits filed against Sterling by both the Justice Department and basketball great Elgin Baylor, claiming disgusting instances of illegally bigoted business practices and workplace discrimination.
What about the players, coaches and other team personnel who signed with the Clippers knowing Sterling’s smutty track record and reputation?
Other NBA owners, the league office, and advertisers were also aware of these allegations throughout the years.
I’m guilty too. As a young adult, I became conscious of Sterling’s reputation when lawsuits against him were covered by the Los Angeles Times and other news sources I followed. I remember discussing Sterling and his nauseating practices (both in his other business ventures and running a basketball franchise into the ground) with my friends, family and co-workers. For some reason my distain for the man never stopped me from watching Clippers games on TV or buying tickets and merchandise. Why didn’t I - as someone who comes from a family of activists and Holocaust survivors, and has had the pleasure of spending time with people like Tommie Smith and John Carlos - take any proactive measures to voice my views in such a way to make a tangible difference? Why didn’t I put my money where my mouth was, instead of straight into Sterling’s filthy, sexist, racist pockets?
Actions speak louder than words and Sterling’s actions were heinous long before the words on this tape were recorded. Sterling’s actions were far more harmful to our society than Sterling’s words. Shame on us for taking the easy way out and doing nothing while leaving people like L.A. renters hoping to live in safe, healthy residences and Elgin Baylor to fight the good fight alone.
It’s a shame that many of us ignored Donald Sterling’s discriminatory actions for so long thus further enabling him, but today is finally a step in the right direction.
Finally, we can, in a way, pay homage to the struggles and sacrifices made by so many in the sports world over the last 65 years. Hopefully the NFL will take a page from the short-but-brilliant Adam Silver playbook and get its ass in gear to change a racist team name that has been tolerated for way too long.
Thankfully, the Sterling debacle doubles as a teachable moment in which we can learn valuable lessons about history, justice and ourselves. This is the evolution of progress.
Today I accidentally caught myself using “Dream Team” in reference to the USA men’s basketball team competing in the 2012 London Olympics. I quickly corrected myself as the words sounded blasphemous the second they left my lips.
The 1992 “Dream Team” is irreplaceable, not only because of the star-studded roster, but because that team was a historical first that will never be duplicated in Olympic competition as far as the U.S. is concerned. It is, however, absolutely possible for the dominance and ferocity of the first NBA player-led Olympic team from the USA to be replicated.
The 2012 men’s team has one thing the 1992 didn’t… an uber-talented, healthy roster from top to bottom. Remember, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson may have been the most famous names on the Dream Team, but they were both at the end of their careers, serving primarily as figurehead fan-favorites and were no longer the most talented men on the basketball court. Bird was in such poor health that he didn’t participate in practice and his teammates said he could hardly walk because of severe back pain.
That is not the case as the 2012 roster is deep with skill and talent. Despite a lack of size without marquee players like Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin, Team USA is still chalk full of hoops greatness.
So then what is holding the 2012 squad back from that top-tier where the original Dream Team resides? Well, the guys have to play the games before we can crown them kings. Period.
Team USA has looked great in two of three international games played thus far. Brazil gave the guys a bit of trouble, exploiting USA’s lack of size down low but not enough so to beat the red, white and blue.
If the Americans will be tested by anyone at all in London, Spain and Argentina will do the honors. And they’ll have the pleasure sooner rather than later as the U.S. will face two of the world’s best teams for some pre-Olympics friendly fun within the next few days.
Interestingly enough, the exhibition games are being played at Palau Sant Jordi, the site of the Dream Team’s gold medal game in Barcelona back in 1992.
The U.S. faces Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola on Sunday, the two NBA stars, leading an Argentine team that won the gold medal in the 2004 Athens Games. Tuesday, the U.S. is up against a ridiculously stacked Spanish team that ultimately lost to Team USA, taking home silver in the 2008 Beijing Games. If you recall, that game was no gimme as the U.S. could’ve been beaten by the Spaniards.
Speaking of Spain, the national team has seven current or former NBA players, plus another two whose draft rights are owned by NBA teams, on the roster. Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka headline the group that is incredibly talented, despite losing phenom Ricky Rubio to injury during the NBA season.
Back in 1992, Team USA beat opponents by an average of nearly 44 points per game in Olympic play. But there was no Manu Ginobili playing for Argentina, or Pau Gasol representing Spain. Instead, those guys were young kids inspired by the NBA stars they were watching in the Olympics on television.
The presence of the Dream Team in 1992 changed the course of history for international basketball, ultimately ensuring that no team could ever dominate at Team USA’s level again, by way of increasing the popularity of the sport worldwide.
Could another American team come close to earning the “Dream Team” name? It’s unlikely. The 2012 team definitely has the star power, but do they have what it takes to dismantle significantly tougher teams than the Americans faced 20 years ago? We’ll find out soon enough.
The stars came out for the LA Sports Fans Choice Awards on Tuesday night at the Luxe Hotel on Sunset Blvd. I partnered with the fellas at www.JerseyChaser.com on the Red Carpet as we talked to several of Magic Johnson’s former teammates about the 20th anniversary of “the announcement” that the Lakers superstar was HIV positive. Click above to watch our exclusive interview with NBA legends as they talk the about their love for Magic and reflect on the sadness of November 7, 1991.
Make sure to check out JerseyChaser.com for breaking news and the hilarity that sports inadvertently provides.