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Donald Sterling owned a professional sports franchise for 33 years, so you would think he learned a few lessons along the way about the benefits and pitfalls that come with public perception. The Wizard operated for only so long before Toto pulled back the curtain.

Sterling had a nice run in the Land of Oz, he really did. For more than three decades, he enjoyed the social and financial perks that come with owning a professional sports franchise. The Clippers gave him the attention he craved while his $12.5 million investment turned into a $1 billion empire.

People patted him on the back and laughed at his jokes and went out of their way to be nice to him simply because he was the owner. And when his racist attitude and creepy relationships with women emerged, they rolled their eyes and rationalized that Sterling was just an eccentric rich guy.

At least that was the perception.

The reality was that Sterling was so disconnected with society and warped by his ego that he believed he could sway the public into thinking he wasn’t a racist. Instead, all he did was further prove what many believed, that he was a delusional man who had no business owning an NBA team.

Who did he blame? The media, of course. He made a weak attempt to apologize for previous remarks during his disastrous interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper, claiming he “made a mistake.” In no time, he trumped that mistake by taking off on another rant about Magic Johnson.

“What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV?” Sterling asked. “Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”

Seriously?

Forget the fact that Johnson has raised millions of dollars through his foundation for HIV and AIDS research. He’s also spent millions more of his own money giving back to inner-city neighborhoods and local business. He has supported numerous charities after making a fortune.

Delusional Donald is so out of touch that he doesn’t even understand the flaw in his thinking, let alone how his words would be perceived. He was so accustomed to his subordinates listening to him, or acting like they were listening, that he actually convinced himself everyone else would do the same.

Instead, he supported the very argument against him. If you figured he was duped into making remarks that were secretly recorded by sleazy mistress V. Stiviano, and perhaps he was, he unveiled his true feelings with Cooper. By the time, he was finished, he came away looking worse.

Now, that’s an achievement.

Once he started rolling, he couldn’t help himself. He made a comment about Jewish people helping their own, using it as an example of blacks not doing the same. He made a point to say everyone wants to play golf with him. He claimed he was a good owner despite comments he made a few weeks ago.

“Am I entitled to one mistake, am I after 35 years?” he asked. “I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake?”

People are entitled to one mistake, but there’s no un-ringing that bell. Sterling has become the gift that keeps on giving. Every time he offers his gift of gab, he gives owners another reason to strip him of his franchise. When they do, he should know they’ll be selling his beloved Clippers to none other than Magic Johnson.

Sterling can think about that for the rest of his life. In the end, Sterling pulled back the curtain on himself. And now the show is over.

Kings face elimination

The Kings appeared to be rolling after storming back from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Sharks and winning the first two against the Ducks. Now, after dropping three straight to Anaheim, they’re in trouble again going into Game Six tonight.

Rookie goaltender John Gibson has evolved into an unlikely hero for the Ducks after playing just three games late in the regular season and taking over in the conference semifinals. He played well enough to win the past two games, but the bigger difference is coming from the other side.

The Kings are getting almost nothing from Mike Richards, who had a goal, two assists and a minus-5 rating to show for 12 playoff games. His plus-minus rating is last among NHL players who are still competing in the postseason.

Dustin Brown, who had 20 points in 20 postseason games two years ago en route to the Cup, has just five goals and five assists in his past 30 playoff games. And goalie Jonatham Quick has allowed nine goals in the three losses after allowing seven goals during the six-game winning streak.

Moneyball repeat for A’s?

In case you hadn’t noticed, the A’s were leading the AL West with a 24-15 record going into Tuesday night’s game against the White Sox. Oakland was riding a five-game winning streak and won 13 of 19 games on the road.

The A’s opened the season with the 25th-highest payroll at $83.4 million compared with the Yankees, who were 19-18 with a $202.8 million payroll, and division rival Angels, who were four games back and spending $155.6 million.

Oakland can thank GM Billy Beane for finding starting pitching. Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez were a combined 12-3, and none had an ERA higher than 2.44. Kazmir is making $9 million, but Gray and Chavez were pocketing only $1.27 million – combined – under their first contracts.

Miami was the only other team in the big leagues that was spending less than Oakland and had a winning record Tuesday. The Marlins were 20-19 while spending $47.5 million on players. The Dodgers had one more win in the AL West while spending $235.3 million, most in the big leagues.

Cavs have eye on future

Cavaliers GM David Griffin was adamant that star guard Kyrie Irving was not directly involved with coach Mike Brown getting fired. That may be true, but Irving’s future must have factored into the decision.

Irving will become a free agent this summer and can receive the maximum contract extension, assuming he wants to stay in Cleveland. He and Brown butted heads at times last season, and there was talk Irving would leave after next season if the coaching staff remained in place.

The Cavs can now hire a new coach, and convince Irving it’s worth sticking around, while buying time to see if LeBron James will return. It’s not absurd. James won his championships with the Heat. There have been rumors for years that he will consider returning to Cleveland in pursuit of a title.

Stats Inc.

70 – Points in 63 career games, including 36 goals, counting the regular season and the playoffs Thomas Vanek has against the Bruins.

4 – Hits in 28 at-bats for Jacoby Ellsbury since going 7-for-10 over two games, dropping his average from .330 to .295 in 10 games before Tuesday.

15 – Top 10 finishes for Jordan Speith in 37 events over the past two years on the PGA Tour, where he has earned more than $7 million.

Quick Hits

• The Bills should find out the asking price for New England backup Ryan Mallett, who appeared to be expendable after the Patriots selected Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round. Mallett lacks experience, too, but he spent three years working alongside Tom Brady.

• For me, nothing is better than a Game Seven in hockey. And nothing is better in hockey than a Game Seven between the Canadiens and Bruins. Montreal had won five of the previous eight. Look for Boston to win this time.

• This marked the first year in history in which the Knicks, Celtics and Lakers failed to make the playoffs, but it hasn’t hurt television ratings. TNT reported a 13 percent jump in ratings for the first round over last year. You have to wonder if the controversy around Donald Sterling provided a boost.

email: bgleason@buffnews.com