The war of words between disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling and NBA legend Magic Johnson has gotten ugly, with Sterling attacking Johnson for being HIV-positive and for supposedly not doing enough to support his fellow members of the African-American community. Johnson, in turn, has called Sterling "delusional" for thinking the Clippers still "love" him, and said that his views on race belong in the "Stone Ages."
The strained relationship between the two men -- who Johnson said had been friendly prior to Sterling's controversial racist remarks -- has taken on an added complexity given the uncertain future of the Clippers. Johnson, who put together the group that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been rumored as a possible bidder should the NBA succeed in ousting Sterling and forcing him to sell the team.
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, Johnson attempted to clarify his position regarding the future of the Clippers, confirming his interest in purchasing the organization but also admitting that his real dream is to own the Lakers, with whom he won five titles as a player.
"We have to wait," Johnson told CNN of any speculation about his interest in the Clippers. "[A sale is] going to be eight months to a year to see if it ever hits the market. But, for me, if it comes out, and it's for sale, and my Guggenheim Partners and I say, 'OK, we want to take a look at it and we want to buy it,' of course we will make a run for it."
Johnson, 54, was one of the most beloved players in league history, capturing five titles, three MVP awards and three Finals MVP awards while making 12 All-Star Game appearances during his 13-year career. The motor behind the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s, Johnson is widely regarded as one of the greatest point guards of all time.
Since his final retirement in 1996, Johnson has served as Lakers coach, he held an ownership stake in the Lakers, he assembled a group that purchased the Dodgers, and he has served as a television commentator.
"What I want, really would want to do is own the Lakers," Johnson told CNN. "If [there is] any team I want to really have or be a part of would be the Lakers, not the Clippers."
In 2010, Johnson sold his 4.5 percent ownership stake in the Lakers to billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. Last year, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss passed away after battling cancer, turning over control of the franchise to his children, including Lakers executives Jim and Jeanie Buss.
There have been no indications that the Lakers -- who Forbes recently valued at $1.35 billion, the second-highest valuation in the NBA -- will go up for sale. The Lakers and Time Warner Cable struck a 20-year television deal reportedly worth more than $3 billion in 2011, and that agreement ensured that the Buss family would be able to continue owning the team after Jerry Buss's death.
Even if Johnson's Lakers dreams are on hold for the moment, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer told CNN that he has had multiple opportunities to join NBA ownership groups in recent years.
"I could be an owner tomorrow," Johnson said. "I could have been an owner. My friends who own Golden State asked me to join them. I could have been the owner of the Golden State Warriors. Tom Gores owns the Detroit Pistons. I could be an owner tomorrow with the Pistons, right? He asked me to come be a part-owner of the Detroit Pistons."
Sterling had implied during an interview with Cooper that Johnson had urged Sterling to remain silent in the wake of his original controversial remarks, perhaps in an attempt to gain leverage in a bid to sell the Clippers. Johnson completely dismissed the idea.
"This notion that I want his team? If I was going to trick somebody, deceive somebody, be dishonest to somebody, steal somebody's franchise, it is going to be the Los Angeles Lakers," Johnson quipped.
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