In the 1860s, in the deep South, black men made white men very rich - but those white men called the black men "animals" and perpetuated myths about him that still haunt and stereotype. Those stereotypes and myths are still at work in the mind of men like Donald Sterling. It doesn't make a man less racist just because he owns a multi-billion dollar professional basketball team and pays his players fairly well. He still can see them as property, and will use them until they are used up.
I love basketball. Actually, I love all sports, but I played basketball in my younger days and so I have a special understanding of the sport. Until 1995 (when the babies were put on the court), I watched the NBA religiously - and I followed coaches more than players or teams. The reason is because a good coach can take a group of people who have many differences and personalities, and who might dislike one another intensely - and he or she can give those players a common goal and purpose that will unite them and overcome those barriers. A good coach knows his players, and he sees them as individuals with strengths to bring to the team. You won't find a good coach who cares whether his players are black, white, brown, purple or polka-dotted. If they can play, and they can unite behind a shared goal of winning, then he wants them on his team.
Team owners...well, that's different. First and foremost in most of their minds is the money that will be made from the team - the ticket sales, the merchandise sales and the nice little perks that come from location in a particular city. Now, if you look at the owners of the NBA teams, you will see that these men are already rich - but with these teams, they get filty rich. Let's consider, for a moment, the Maloof family - who until last year owned the Sacramento Kings. This is from the Wages of Wins website:
The Maloofs bought the Kings from Jim Thomas in January 1999 for $156 million. Adjusted for inflation, this would be about $215 million. If the Kings are valued at $525 million, and the Maloof family owns a53% share, then the Maloofs stand to earn about $278.3 million from this sale, a tidy profit of about $63.3 million. Add it all up, and the Maloofs have made around $109 million during the period of their 14-year majority ownership. On a yearly basis, this amounts to $7.8 million a year.