Donald Sterling is going to get punished on Tuesday, but we don't yet know how it will happen. Will Adam Silver go hard on the Clippers' racist scumbag owner, or will he use soft power to drive him out? How will players -- most notably the L.A. Clippers -- react to that punishment? Will Tuesday's Game 5 of the Clippers-Warriors series at STAPLES Center actually happen?
We don't know. But thanks to some cosmic consultation, I have determined how each choice the commish and the players make will impact the NBA, and specifically the Clippers, long-term. Follow along in this textual adventure: Choose Your Own Cliptastrophe.
Note: Each of the links lead to the next (and different) step in the adventure. Click and follow them to read this story properly).
"Holy crap, this is bad. Thirty odd years and Donald Sterling mostly keeps his virulent racism limited to his housing projects and the courtroom depositions. I'm on the job three months and this asshole is on TMZ banning black people from his black girlfriend's family. Dammit dammit dammit."
"I checked the Guide To Commissionering, and the section on getting rid of racist owners was really short. Getting rid of broke owners seems pretty easy, but racist ones pose a problem. I don't think I can get away with Marge Schotting him -- the heat from all these sports takes is too hot -- but I really don't want to be in a court room or anywhere with this guy. Dammit dammit dammit. I wonder if David wants to come out of retirement."
An NBA public relations employee knocks on the door to Silver's green room.
"Mr. Silver, the media has been waiting an hour. They are joking about Detox on Twitter again."
You are Adam Silver. Do you ... ?
Adam Silver is pouring sweat. You are pouring sweat, too, because you did bodyweight squats the entire time you were waiting for Adam Silver to show up on your TV and make his announcement. He announced that Sterling can't attend games this season and will face a $1 million fine.
Kevin Johnson, who is advising the players' union that you run (or at least of which you are president), calls. He wants to know what the Clippers are going to do tonight. Man man man.
You are Chris Paul. Do you ...?
Adam Silver is pouring sweat. You are pouring sweat, too, because you did barbell lunges the entire time you were waiting for Adam Silver to show up on your TV and make his announcement. He announced that Sterling is banned from NBA games for life, is fined $1 million and must turn over operation of the franchise to someone else in the organization.
DeAndre Jordan, who stopped by to borrow your bathroom because his flooded after he attempted to flush a burning effigy of Donald Sterling, walks in. He wants to know what the Clippers are going to do tonight.
You are Chris Paul. Do you ...?
Adam Silver is pouring sweat. You are pouring sweat, too, because you did handstand pushups the entire time you were waiting for Adam Silver to show up on your TV and make his announcement. He announced that he has asked the NBA Board of Governors to strip Donald Sterling of the Clippers franchise.
Your teammates Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Ryan Hollins, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Jared Dudley are in your breakfast nook playing Ticket to Ride. (Only Davis wore the sartorially appropriate stovepipe hat and bowtie.) Crawford looks up and asks what the players should do.
You are Chris Paul. Do you ...?
"The NBA went soft on me. Cowards. But Silver did tell me not to do something -- he told me not to come to games this postseason. And he fined me, For what? What happened to freedom of speech? He's not going to get away with this."
"Or maybe this time, I let it slide. Things are a little hot right now. V was wearing that ridiculous mask the other day -- that's not good. She shouldn't have to hide who she is out in the streets. Only on Instagram and at my games. Maybe I just put my head down for two more games and pay the fine. This team sucks anyway."
You are Donald Sterling. Do you ... ?
"Hand over my team to someone in the family? Like my loony wife or my disloyal son-in-law? Ha! What a joke."
"Or maybe I accept the punishment, fake some remorse and move on. I mean, they can make me give the team to another Sterling, but I'll still see every dollar Chris Paul and Blake Griffin make for me."
You are Donald Sterling. Do you ... ?
"TAKE MY TEAM? Hell no. Over my dead body."
You call team president Andy Roeser.
"Andy. Andy. Tell the press that Adam Silver can take my franchise when he pries it from my cold, dead hands. And I'm coming to that damn game. I own this team. I own those players. I own all of that money in that arena."
You realize you are delivering a pizza to Donald Sterling's house. Man, that dude is a scumbag. You remember that you have a dimebag of kush in the glove compartment. You have an idea.
You sprinkle the kush all over the pizza. Looks just like basil. Err, oregano. You don't really know your herbs very well.
You take the pizza up. "Mr. Sterling, it's such an honor! I really respect how you hate black people! I would love to pick your brain about how you managed to become so successful!"
Sterling, flattered, invites you in for pizza. Sterling is ravenous. He eats half the pie. He begins act loopy. Wait. Oh shit. You remember you bought that kush over in Carson. Oh damn, it's totally laced with PCP, huh? PERFECT.
You get to talking about the future of the Clippers.
"I don't know, my son-in-law's a real jackass. I don't want to turn the team over to him," Sterling says.
"What if I told you I knew someone who could run the team, someone who respects your legacy and would be forever loyal?" you say.
You lay out your 20-year plan for Southern California dominance. Sterling is impressed. You encourage him to eat more pizza. Sterling goes to his office and returns with a cartoonish oversized deed to the Clippers. He signs it over to you. You are now the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling laughs until he falls asleep.
You are confirmed by the NBA Board of Governors within two weeks. No one cares if you have $8 and a 1997 Mazda to your name. They are just glad to be rid of Sterling. Sterling sues, but every oral argument he makes is derailed by discussions of his sexual escapades. The courts consistently rule in your favor.
The Clippers win five championships by 2030. Damn, you're good. Eventually, a bronze statue of you is installed in front of the NBA league office, for you are the savior. You saved the Clippers. You saved the NBA.
You show up to Game 5. Clippers fans have formed a human chain around STAPLES Center. Players from both the Clippers and Warriors have joined in. Jermaine O'Neal is wearing an obviously fake white beard and he bellows, "You Shall Not Pass." Who the hell is this guy? "Do I pay you, boy?"
"I wouldn't take your money if Rihanna's shirt was made out of it, asshole."
"Whatever, you're fired. Get out of the way."
Neither O'Neal nor the fans will move. You fumble around in your murse, pull out your cheap cologne, believing it to be your pepper spray. You hold it up toward O'Neal and spray.
The cologne hits you in your eyes, goes up your nose and into your mouth.
You hit the ground. Hard.
The nightmares come every night. Jermaine O'Neal in a wizard's cloak. He had a staff. He was summoning basketballs with his staff and zipping them at your head. Hard. Your head hurts so bad. The basketballs never stop coming. You can't sleep. You feel as if you are losing yourself.
A woman shows up. "Mr. Sterling, it's October 30, 2014. The Clippers' home opener is tonight against the Lakers. Will you be attending?"
You show up. Then the basketballs come out. Lots of them, bouncing against the floor. The teams are warming up. So many basketballs. You begin to sweat. You see Jermaine O'Neal. He has a white beard. You feel woozy. You sweat. Hard.
"I gotta get out of here."
You stand to leave. You make eye contact with O'Neal. Oh no. He begins moving toward you. You shuffle to the tunnel. O'Neal is gaining. He's dribbling the basketball. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. The tunnel goes dark. Pitch black. Bounce bounce bounce. A voice booms out.
"Do you have to be seen in dark places, Donald?" Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
"No, I don't! I'll never be seen in a dark place again!"
The bouncing gets louder. It's right on him. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
You wake up in the hospital bed. It's May 1, 2014. Your mouth tastes of rubbing alcohol. A woman enters.
"Mr. Sterling, you're awake. Would you like me to put the game on?"
"NO. I NEVER WANT TO SEE OR HEAR A BASKETBALL EVER AGAIN. Sell the team. Sell the team."
Unfortunately for you, the bouncing of the balls never stops. And you can never get Jermaine O'Neal's bearded visage out of your mind.
You hate basketball. And you are really super-duper racist. As the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, you're disgusted that all of your highest-paid players are black. So you trade them. Chris Paul to Cleveland for Spencer Hawes in a sign-and-trade. Blake Griffin to the Bulls for Jimmer Fredette in a sign-and-trade. DeAndre Jordan to Toronto for Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough. Jamal Crawford to Portland for Meyers Leonard.
You fire Doc Rivers and hire your best friend from Shinnecock Hills, Buff Flanderson, as coach and GM. The Clippers go 2-80. God, you hate basketball. At the end of the season, you announce that the Clippers have seceded from the NBA and will join the National Lacrosse League. You fire everyone except Buff and sign your buddies to multi-million contracts. Every person you ever meet for the rest of your life shakes their head at you.
Meanwhile, the former Clippers go on to great success. Clippers fans receive free hypnosis from an L.A. doctor. The treatment allows them to forget all painful Clippers memories and receive positive memories from the greatest moments in Lakers history. They become the most passionate Lakers fans you can find.
You now own the Clippers. This means you have retired from basketball. For now. MJ came back once as an owner. You'll come back twice. "That dumbass Jim Buss kept D'Antoni? Ha! I'll show him."
Chris Paul shoots 2-14 in the 2014-15 opener. You waive him. Blake Griffin fouls out of the second game. You waive him. DeAndre Jordan scores six points with seven rebounds in the third game. You waive him. "Dammit, this team sucks," you say approximately four million times in the first week of the game.
You acquire a time machine through Craigslist. You bring 1998 Kobe to 2014. You turn the team over to your bestie Pau Gasol and announce that the team has signed a number of players who are 6'3, about 200 pounds and only have the skills of ball-handling and passing.
You ride sadly into the sunset.