Danny Ferry developed a reputation at Duke as one of the smartest players in basketball.
When he was drafted, though, a lot of people thought he made a huge mistake by not signing right away.
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But Ferry, whose father managed the Washington Bullets for years, knew better than to sign with Donald Sterling's Clippers.
Even in the late '80s, the guy had a reputation as being a real wanker.
It was compounded by a lengthy list of law suits and legal battles, and was likely cemented this week when explosive audio of (apparently) Sterling saying truly appalling things about blacks.
We say apparently because it hasn't been confirmed, but it's almost certainly Sterling.
From the NBA's point of view, this is great news. The publicity will hurt in the short term, but for the first time, the league has an opening to force a truly wretched owner to at least relinquish general control of the franchise, if he's not forced to sell outright.
Having said that, the publicity is devastating.
Since the '60s, with the hiring of Bill Russell as player-coach by the Celtics, the NBA has by far - it's not close, it's not arguable - done more to move minorities into coaching and management positions than the other professional leagues combined.
Even the Clippers hired Elgin Baylor as G.M., who distinguished himself post-Lakers mostly by showing up at the NBA lottery drawing every summer.
Across the league, blacks moved smoothly into positions of power. The NBA was never perfect, but it's been light years ahead of the rest of the sports world.
Now the Sterling train wreck.
No doubt the NBA would like to be rid of him, but new Commissioner Adam Silver, as Charles Barkley rightly noted, faces his first serious serious test.
And it may turn out that events are getting away from Silver and the NBA.
NBA players are as unified and determined as we can ever recall. Sponsors are beginning to flee the Clippers. The global media has focused on Sterling's comments and brought immense pressure.
Silver has said he wants to proceed judiciously and to do the right thing the right way.
Admirable and correct.
There's a freight train highballing out of control though, and if Silver isn't careful, it's going to run him down, too.
The only situation remotely like this was the sad decline of Marge Schott, the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds.
But Schott, who rambled on about the good work Hitler did before he went wrong and who let her St. Bernard relieve himself on the Red's playing field, was a lonely old drunk, more pathetic than scorned.
Ultimately she was asked to walk away and, in a rare moment of grace, she did.
Somehow we get the feeling that Sterling, with a long history of mean behavior, a billion dollars in his pocket and a ton of lawyers at his disposal, is not going to be that easy.