A friend discovered Scott Ashley Sterling's body around 11:30 p.m. while checking up on him at his home at the Malibu Beach Villa apartment complex in the 22600 block of Pacific Coast Highway. Deputies found the body and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
"Apparently, he hadn't been seen for a couple of days," said Steve Whitmore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
According to Lt. Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, Sterling died of an apparent accidental overdose. While the official cause of death has not been confirmed, officials said no signs of foul play or trauma were found at his home. The medical examiner's office is set to conduct an autopsy and toxicology report Thursday or Friday to make a final ruling.
The 77-year-old Donald Sterling, a billionaire real estate mogul who purchased the team in 1981, and wife Shelley released a statement thanking friends for sympathy, asking for privacy and saying their son was diabetic.
"Our son Scott has fought a long and valiant battle against Type 1 Diabetes," the statement said. "His death is a terrible tragedy, the effects of which will be felt forever by our family and all those who knew and loved him."
Scott Sterling had a few brushes with the law when he was younger. In 1999, he was arrested at 19 for shooting his childhood friend, Phillip Scheid, in the leg with a shotgun. The gunfire stemmed from an argument at his father's Beverly Hills mansion where he claimed Scheid attacked him with a knife. The county district attorney's office declined to file criminal charges, citing credibility problems with the victim. He was charged and convicted of carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle or public place years later.
Property records show Sterling's lavish Malibu apartment is one of thousands owned by his father.
The death cast a shadow on what has been a joyous season for the Clippers. They were in the midst of enjoying their franchise-record 17-game winning streak. That streak ended Tuesday night with a 92-78 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
"All our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sterling family," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Tough day for everybody in the Clippers' organization, but just thinking about Mr. and Mrs. Sterling with their loss. That's first and foremost on everybody's mind today when we had our meeting this morning. Not an easy situation. I just hope they know that we're thinking about them and that the team is, and we'll be back soon. Things like this put things in perspective real quick. I know a lot of good thoughts and prayers are in that locker room with them tonight. That's the first and foremost thing."
Team President Andy Roeser issued a statement saying "Scott was a friend to many in the Clippers' family and he will be greatly missed."
NBA Commissioner David Stern also expressed sympathies to the Sterlings.
"On behalf of the NBA family, we extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Donald and Shelly Sterling on the loss of their son, Scott," Stern said.
Basketball legend Magic Johnson took to Twitter on Wednesday to extend his sympathies.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to LA Clippers owners Donald and Shelly Sterling and their family for the loss of their son Scott," Johnson tweeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.