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, but did not indicate what role, if any, that may have played in his death.
“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.”
The death cast a pall on what has been a joyous season for the Clippers, normally an NBA doormat but now among the league’s best teams. The team is in first place in its division and had a franchise-record 17-game winning streak that was snapped Tuesday night.
The Clippers were at Golden State on Wednesday night.
“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.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern also expressed sympathies to the Sterlings.
The death at a beachfront apartment building on Pacific Coast Highway was discovered after a friend of Scott Sterling called police after not hearing from him for several days, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies found the body and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
“Sheriff’s homicide and Los Angeles County coroner’s personnel at this time believe that Sterling died of an apparent drug overdose,” the statement said.
Dietz said the death appeared to be accidental, but an autopsy was planned to determine the exact cause of death.
In 1999, the then-19-year-old Sterling was arrested for shooting his friend with a shotgun. Beverly Hills police said Philip Scheid was shot in the legs during an argument at Donald Sterling’s mansion.
Scheid said he was shot from behind while running away. Sterling said he fired in self-defense after Scheid approached him with a knife. The county district attorney’s office declined to file criminal charges, citing credibility problems with the victim.