Lewis: NBA had to drop hammer on Donald Sterling

Wow. Just wow.

Anyone who thought NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s punishment for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling might be some kind of legally nuanced non-rush to judgment was sorely mistaken.

This Ichabod Crane lookalike, who’s been in his position only since February, went all Kennesaw Mountain Landis on Tuesday, handing down a punishment that was Black Soxesque in its impact.

— Banned from the NBA for life. Wham!

— Max-fined $2.5 million. Bam!

— Forced to sell the team. Boo-Ya!

This action coming from a guy who, at the All-Star Game in New Orleans two weeks into his tenure, said that fining a player (he’d then done it just once) was the least enjoyable part of the job.

He seems to be getting the hang of it, though.

Of course, coming down like an Anthony Davis dunk on a vile, stupid billionaire octogenarian, who was recorded making some rather rambling but ultimately racist remarks during what we presume he considered pillow talk with his 30-something “girlfriend” is low-hanging fruit.

Oddly enough, the Clippers have long had of the most diverse team operations in the league, including current coach/general manager Doc Rivers. Their home crowds at the Staples Center reflected Los Angeles far better than the Showtime Lakers.

Sterling was even getting a second lifetime achievement award from the local NAACP until this broke. And he’s not the first old geezer to say something inappropriate.

So maybe he’s not so bad after all.

No. Sterling has been an embarrassment to the league for years, and his transgressions have been well-documented. They just couldn’t figure out how to get rid of him until now.

In fact, as Lee Jenkins of SI.com pointed out so well, former Commissioner David Stern validated Sterling in 2011 when he voided the then-Hornets’ trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers before approving shipping Paul to their fellow Staples Center tenants.

That move helped transform the laughingstock franchise — not just in basketball, but for all major pro sports, with just one playoff appearance in the previous 14 years, into a championship contender.

And that, in turn, increased the value of the team, which some are estimating to be worth $1 billion (the Milwaukee freaking Bucks are going for $500 million) unless the forced sale delivers the Clips to Magic Johnson or any other entity that can put together a viable ownership group a sizable discount.

Of course, given Sterling’s reputation for having a litigious nature (which is partially why he’s avoided any previous sanctions) and his already avowal not to sell the team, this might not happen as quickly as some hope.

But make no mistake, a big part of this decision, especially in its quickness, was money-driven.

Virtually all of the team’s sponsors had bailed.

How long before league sponsors, especially the ones buying TV time in the playoffs, were going to follow suit?

In pro sports, owners are measured not by their championship rings but by how much money they bring to the collective kitty. Although the Clippers’ stay in the playoffs may not last beyond the first round, they would’ve been poison going forward with Sterling as the owner.

The story itself was spinning out of control. In a wildly compelling playoff season, the Sterling situation was the dominant topic.

Reportedly, the Clippers were ready to refuse to play until the situation was resolved. It’s not hard to see the rest of the playoff teams following suit.

And how much longer would the Al Sharptons of the world be bringing their outrage to the podium? We’re surprised Gloria Allred hasn’t showed up demanding a reward for that courageous whistleblower, V. Stiviano.

None of this is to diminish Sterling’s culpability, both now and in the past.

And in a league that, in Silver’s words, celebrates its diversity, multiculturalism and multiethnicism having such a person as an owner is flatly unacceptable.

For that matter, tolerating and/or making excuses for any of the Donald Sterlings of this world is unacceptable.

So way to go, Adam Silver!

By the way, can we get Chris Paul back?