The NBA on Tuesday banned Sterling for life over racially charged comments he made in a recording. Sterling cannot attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers office or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team, Commissioner Adam Silver said.
Silver said Sterling would be fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowed under the NBA constitution, and he will try to force a sale of the Clippers. But a 75-percent majority of NBA owners would have to vote in favor of forcing the sale.
"Very, very likely it will be a unanimous vote because those owners, regardless of how they feel, don't want to put up with the public scrutiny of voting in Sterling's favor," said David Carter, executive director of USC's Sports Business Institute.
Sterling hasn't commented, so the future of the team's front office remains unclear. But ever since Silver made the announcement, the list of potential owners has been growing. Several high-profile athletes and entertainers have expressed their interest in the team.
Oprah Winfrey's spokesperson released a statement saying she is "in discussions with David Geffen and Larry Ellison to make a bid for the Los Angeles Clippers should the team become available."
Larry Ellison is the billionaire owner of Oracle software and David Geffen is a movie and music mogul. Geffen's spokesperson confirmed in a statement that "if the Clippers became available, David Geffen, Larry Ellison and Oprah Winfrey would be interested."
Boxer Oscar De La Hoya expressed his interest on Tuesday, saying he will bring a different perspective.
"The league has made it known that it wants more minorities involved, and as a proud Mexican-American, I will bring a different perspective to the NBA in general, and the Clippers in particular," De LA Hoya said. "I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I know what it takes to run a successful sports entity and nothing would make me happier than to bring an NBA Championship home to Southern California sports fans."
While many wealthy and prominent people have been eyeing the Clippers, some not-so-wealthy people also want a chance to buy the team. Tim Nguyen has launched a crowd sourcing campaign on Crowdtilt.com. He's hoping to raise $600 million to purchase the Clippers.
"We won't know unless we try," Nguyen said. "Help the people buy the Clippers. Let's bring this back to the community. Let it be owned by the city of L.A."
But any sale of the team is still a long way away. Experts say the legal procedures will take months or even years. Carter says Sterling can choose to fight legally to keep the team.
"Just because they have the right to expel him doesn't mean he won't go without a legal fight, which could really slow things down dramatically," said Carter.
Carter says if Sterling does decide to sell, the embattled owner stands to make a staggering profit. The 80-year-old real estate mogul bought the Clippers for $12.5 million back in 1981. The team is now valued in excess of $500 million and a bidding war could push that price even higher.