(CNN) — NBA legend Magic Johnson said Tuesday he is going to pray for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who slammed him in an interview with CNN a day earlier for not doing enough for minorities.
“My whole life is devoted to urban America. So, you know I just wish he knew the facts when he’s talking,” Johnson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “But he’s a man who’s upset and he’s reaching. He’s reaching. He’s trying to find something that he can grab on to help him save his team. And it’s not going to happen. … I’m a God-fearing man and I’m going to pray for him and hope things work out for him.”
Sterling went on the offensive in his interview with Cooper when Johnson’s name came up, blaming the basketball Hall of Famer for his delay in apologizing for the racist remarks that got him banned from the league.
He slammed the legendary Los Angeles Lakers point guard’s character and his battle with HIV, saying Johnson hasn’t done anything to help others.
“What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about?” Sterling said in the interview that aired Monday night. “I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”
Johnson, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships, has been a central figure in the controversy since the recording of Sterling speaking with friend V. Stiviano surfaced last month on TMZ.
In the recording, which drew widespread condemnation from fans, players and the league, Sterling chastises Stiviano for posting pictures online of her posing with African-Americans, including Johnson. He tells her not to bring Johnson to Clippers games.
“Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f**k him, but don’t put (Magic) on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me,” he said.
As criticism over the recording spread, Johnson was among the first to say that Sterling should sell the team.
Now Sterling says that he waited so long to apologize about the recording because Johnson, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships, called him and told him to remain silent.
“I think he wanted me to just do nothing so he could buy the team,” Sterling said.
Johnson hasn’t indicated whether he would pursue a Clippers ownership position.
During his interview with Cooper, Sterling repeatedly apologized and denied accusations that he’s racist, claiming he’d been “baited” into making what he called “terrible” remarks.
But his comments about Johnson drew immediate backlash on social media and prompted many to question Sterling’s sincerity.
“That doesn’t sound like much of an apology to me,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said in a conference call.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver apologized to Johnson on behalf of the league in a statement.
“I just read a transcript of Donald Sterling’s interview with Anderson Cooper and while Magic Johnson doesn’t need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologize to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack,” Silver said. “The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible.”
Johnson’s 1991 revelation that he was HIV-positive shocked the sports world. The athlete has drawn accolades for his openness about the illness and his push to help fight it. He’s the founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation, which has raised millions for HIV/AIDS awareness.
It also provides funds for testing and treatment as well as scholarships and mentoring for minority students.
As chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, Johnson has invested extensively, with the company describing its mission on its website as being “a catalyst for and fostering community/economic empowerment” in “ethnically diverse urban communities.”