Son of LA Clippers owner found dead in Malibu

Scott Sterling

Scott Sterling rarely missed a workout. 

“Everybody knew him here, he was here every single day,” said Malibu Fitness owner Lonnie Galate. 

So when Sterling, the 32-year-old son of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, was found dead in his Malibu apartment on Jan. 1, it came as a shock to many who were used to seeing him around town. 

“I still can’t believe it,” said a friend of Sterling’s who wished to remain anonymous. “I had just run into him at CVS the day before Christmas. He looked great and told me he was doing good.” 

Local sheriff ’s deputies were called to Sterling’s Malibu Beach Villas apartment just east of the Malibu Pier at 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day, where they discovered his unresponsive body. Fire and paramedic crews pronounced the lifelong Malibu resident dead at the scene. Sterling had not been seen for several days leading up to New Year’s. 

Early indications are that Sterling died of a drug overdose, but the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office is awaiting results of toxicology tests, expected to be available in the next five weeks. Sterling’s parents also issued a statement saying he battled Type 1 diabetes. 

Before his death, Sterling kept a low profile in Malibu. Friends described him as kind, able to “make you feel like he was so happy to see you” and not one who tried to use his name to get ahead. Along with his workout regimen, he frequently visited friends at the sober living home across the street from his Malibu Beach Villas apartment. He took friends to the Staples Center to watch Clipper games. And he loved to fish. 

“He taught me how to fish and he would catch every type of fish,” his friend said. “I wouldn’t catch any but he would catch every single kind.” 

But Sterling’s past was also clouded with controversy. When he was 19, Sterling was arrested for shooting a high school acquaintance twice in the legs after an argument outside of Donald Sterling’s Beverly Hills residence. He told investigators he had shot the friend out of self-defense. Beverly Hills police recommended pressing charges against the younger Sterling, but the district attorney declined, saying the victim, 19-year-old Philip Scheid, was not credible to testify against Sterling. 

In the years after the shooting, Sterling stayed out of local and national headlines, with little news of him until his Jan. 1 death. 

According to an obituary published by Mount Sinai Memorial Park, Sterling was an outdoors enthusiast and “accomplished body-builder.” Acquaintances also recalled Sterling’s uplifting disposition. 

“He was very energetic, always smiling at everyone and saying ‘hi,’” a Malibu Fitness employee said. 

On a fishing trip to Marina Del Rey, Sterling’s friend remembered him happily standing at the head of the fishing boat. 

“He stood out there with his hands out just bowing to the day,” his friend said. 

Hundreds attended a private service for him on Sunday, Jan. 6 in Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Attendees were overflowing out the door, his friend said.

“I don’t think he realized the amount of people he touched,” he said. 

Scott Sterling is survived by sister Joanna Miller, brother Chris Sterling, mother Shelly Sterling, and his father Donald Sterling, a prominent Malibuite who has owned the Clippers since 1981. He also had several nieces and nephews.