‘Clipped’ Episodes 1-2 Recap & Ending Explained: How Did Stiviano Create Trouble For Donald Sterling?


FX’s new sports drama series Clipped brings to screen the shameful story of the Los Angeles Clippers former owner, Donald Sterling, with its two premiere episodes released this week. Based on the fantastic podcast program by ESPN 30 for 30, titled “The Sterling Affairs,” the new miniseries presents a fictional retelling of the very real events that ousted one of the most racist men to have been associated with the USA’s National Basketball Association. While seeing actors play out the roles of players and coaches so popularly seen in the sport even today might be a bit jarring, Clipped will hopefully bring more attention to the sporting scandal that rocked the basketball world back in 2014.

Spoiler Alert

Why are the LA Clippers considered a cursed team?

Clipped opens at the beginning of the 2013–14 NBA season with the arrival of a new head coach for the Los Angeles Clippers team—the incredibly popular Doc Rivers. While the Clippers had been stuck in mediocrity, with no appearance in the Western Conference Finals round ever in their forty-three years of existence, Doc Rivers had only recently helped the Boston Celtics win the NBA title in 2011 and was hailed as one of the finest coaches in the league. Therefore, when the recruitment is made, the new coach is expected to take the franchise by storm and provide brilliant results, which he himself aims for as well. As soon as Doc enters the Clippers administration building, he feels the unwanted pressure of the overtly insensitive owner of the team, Donald Sterling. However, this is not very new to him either, as he had played on the team a year ago during his professional career, and he is aware of Sterling’s tendencies to call the shots in every aspect. 

Doc’s first step in ensuring the team’s success in the upcoming season is to sign free agent guard JJ Redick, much to the surprise of Sterling, who is not initially interested in the player. Although he agrees at some point, the main reason for this decision is because he thinks that the player is Black. The owner clearly has a certain tendency to sign players and staff members who are non-white, and this is later revealed to be for a very particular reason. Nonetheless, his team poses to be a serious contender in the NBA league, helmed by the talented players in the squad, namely Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan. The addition of Reddick also helps them get off to a good start to the year and perform strongly on the court.

The head coach has to sort out a problem in the egos of his players first, which will probably be a recurrent matter throughout the season. When Doc first comes to the club, Blake Griffin is considered to be the leader and the best player in the team, also hailed as the superstar athlete. However, Chris Paul, who has always been considered a self-centered player, even to this day, evidently does not like the situation, for he wants to be considered the captain instead. Even when Sterling very selectively prioritizes Griffin over Paul in one of the pre-season parties, there is a budding rivalry between the two players and naturally between the others in the team as well. Doc gets a whiff of this unnecessary distraction and talks to both players individually. Interestingly, he literally pits Griffin and Paul against each other by talking ill about each other and harping on how they should prove themselves better by being team players. This coaching style pays dividends very soon, as the team gels up brilliantly and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin form a great bond on the court, leading to plays that earned the Clippers the nickname “Lob City.” Some of these great lob passes from the likes of Paul and Jordan, scored into points by Griffin, are glimpsed in the series as well.

Based on quite a strong performance, the Clippers team finishes the regular season in a high enough position to qualify for the NBA Playoffs, which had been their primary target. Although Doc Rivers is very satisfied with his team’s results, he still remains frustrated by Sterling’s intervention in matters that a team owner should not have any say in. He had already had arguments with the owner about what players to sign for the team and which part of the game to focus on, and he was also extremely upset with Sterling’s generally disrespectful behavior all throughout. But his patience crosses all limits at the end of an important game in the regular season when Sterling simply brings a group of his guests into the locker room. As the locker room is considered a very private space for the players, where they can comfortably recover after a game, many of the team members are made to feel extremely awkward by the guests. The coach soon finds out about this and immediately shouts at Sterling to take his group away from the room and to not cause any more chaos. 

In the first round of the playoffs, the Clippers face off against the up-and-coming Golden State Warriors, which includes a young but efficient-shooting Stephen Curry. Although the Warriors are able to win the very first game, held in Los Angeles, Doc’s team is able to win the next two events and lead the series 2-1. However, during all this time, the supposed curse that is believed to be on the team still occupies a place in the minds of Doc and his players. The Clippers were considered extremely unlucky, to the extent of having some supernatural powers in the works against them, which never allowed them to reach the NBA Finals, let alone win it. Nonetheless, Doc remains confident that he will be able to break the curse on his very first attempt, win the first round, and advance to the playoffs. However, the end of Clipped episode 2 has the Clippers team learn about a certain audio tape of their owner being leaked to the media, and this is sure to have a great effect on them. After all, Clipped is also about how the Los Angeles Clippers ultimately failed to break their curse and lost even with arguably their strongest team to date.

Why does Shelly sue V?

More than the performances of the Clippers basketball team, though, Clipped is the story of their detestable owner, Donald Sterling, and the ultimate downfall that he faced. In this regard, the plot begins with the fact that Sterling is an extremely rich businessman with an even bigger ego and sense of privilege who has no regard for anyone around him. Therefore, it is very natural for him that even though his wife, Shelly, regularly visits the Staples Arena for the Clippers games and is quite actively involved with his business and image, he still has a number of younger women with whom he keeps close. At present, he is absolutely flattered by his secretary, who is known as V. Stiviano, and he spends a lot of time with her. V is given access to almost every space in Sterling’s life, and he also throws around a lot of money and expensive gifts at her to keep her happy. Although V states to her friend that she is actually not sexually involved with Sterling and that they are simply friends, the exact nature of their relationship is not known. 

When Shelly starts to notice V’s presence, she is quite upset by the fact that the secretary is allowed to be almost everywhere by her own husband. Not only is V allowed at Sterling’s house, but she is also given VIP tickets to the Clippers games and is allowed to sit in the courtside seats. Shelly is infuriated when her husband has V walk out onto the court before the start of a game, treating her like an absolute celebrity. Although she admits to her friends that other younger women had also been favored in this manner by her husband before, they were at least never allowed to enter her turf, meaning the houses and especially the Staples Arena. She did indeed have an equal share in the Clippers organization, along with the real estate business that her husband had built, and she had worked equally hard for these enterprises. Therefore, seeing a younger woman, who is also of Mexican and Black origin, try to take her position makes her quite upset. This feeling reaches its ultimate spot when she and V have a confrontation, with the latter confidently stating that she will soon become the new Mrs. Sterling, which makes Shelly react in a particular manner. 

When the woman finds out about the fact that her husband had gifted a Ferrari car and numerous other extremely expensive items to V, she decides to sue the secretary and remove her from the scene completely. Shelly does not have Donald’s support in this decision, but in this case, he underestimates her intention and greatly feels that she will not ultimately pursue the lawsuit. But when she consults a lawyer all by herself and ensures that V receives an official legal document informing her of the lawsuit against her, it clearly indicates that she has had enough of her husband’s controlling nature. Although Shelly Sterling does not directly intend to make Donald face the brunt of this decision in the first two episodes of Clipped, the situation will soon change in the later part, as it happened in reality.

How does V. Stiviano create trouble for Donald Sterling?

Although Sterling always categorically mentions that he is not a racist and does not judge people based on their skin, he is an absolute bigot who does not see his own fault. Sterling is indeed a person who categorically hires people of color to prove to the world that he does not discriminate and is yet extremely prejudiced against them. He believes that appointing Black players and coaches for his team is a great act of charity, as he is the one giving them a livelihood, suggesting that they would not be able to achieve anything otherwise. In an overall sense, Sterling wants to keep Black people only as his employees and does not treat them as equal. Therefore, when V quite innocently photographs herself with the legendary Magic Johnson and puts up the image on her social media, he is terribly upset. The boss reprimands her for associating with “people from minority” communities and states that she must not post photos with them as long as everyone knows about her close association with him.

Incidentally, V had been keeping voice recordings of all these conversations, which was even part of her job as the man’s secretary, since Sterling had the habit of not sticking to his words. Thus, when she faces a lawsuit from Shelley and receives no support from Sterling, even getting sidelined from his life, she decides to take matters into her own hands. V is intelligent enough to know how impactful the audio recordings would be if released to the public, and she first sends the files to the Clippers front office. Andy Roeser, the erstwhile president of the team, is understandably concerned about the racist nature of his boss, but he is unable to do much about it. In this short while, V realizes that the team will not be of any help in her situation, and so she sends the recordings to the tabloid TMZ, hoping that they will release them to the public. This is exactly what happens, giving V an upper hand in the matter immediately, and its exact repercussions are to be seen in the upcoming episodes. While the Clippers players are informed about the leak of this tape, they are not yet aware of its contents, and so the effect of Sterling being proved to be an outright racist will also have an impact on their performances. The matter surely led to Donald Sterling’s downfall, and how Clipped presents the incidents will be interesting to see.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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