And the Clippers, like it or not, are Sterling's private property, prompting numerous sources to say this week that mandating a sale would be virtually impossible.
Sterling's status as Clippers owner is similar to that of a franchisee in that he has the right to use NBA logos and be a part of the league. But it's considered highly unlikely Silver and his fellow owners would be willing to attempt to revoke his rights as a franchise owner because of the legal ramifications of such a bold decision.
There are other owners and league officials, sources stressed to ESPN.com throughout the weekend, who have wanted Sterling out of the league for years in the wake of all of the off-court allegations he's faced during the past decade. But Sterling's famously litigious history suggests that they could bank on a costly lawsuit in reply. One example: A theoretical antitrust suit from Sterling against the NBA could conceivably allege that he is being forced to sell the Clippers at less-than-market value, because prospective buyers know Sterling has no choice but to sell, with the commissioner and Sterling's ownership rivals trying to push him out.
The league insider who earlier asserted that Sterling will eventually be managed out of the NBA, Marge Schott-style, if the tapes are authenticated, said: "But there's less than 1 in a 100 million odds they attempt to make him sell."
Sources say that the only two known violations that would allow the NBA to force an owner to sell his team are gambling-related offenses or the sort of deep financial problems witnessed in New Orleans with George Shinn.
In Schott's case, she was repeatedly fined and suspended for making racist comments against both African-Americans and Jews. But she stepped down as majority owner of the Cincinnati Reds only when the Reds' limited owners were poised to vote her out.
Angelenos will recall former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who was effectively managed out of control of the team by Major League Baseball. MLB commissioner Bud Selig, however, would appear to have a much more favorable path than Silver has now.
McCourt consistently threatened baseball with legal action if it attempted to force him out, but he was ultimately forced to sell when he became insolvent and no longer had the means to operate the team. The NBA assumed operating control of the New Orleans Hornets under similar circumstances in December 2010, when Shinn could no longer meet payroll, but the Clippers are a booming franchise that would quite possibly command in excess of $1 billion on the open market if Sterling -- whose lifelong mantra is that he never sells anything -- put the team up for bidding.
McCourt ultimately argued that he would have been able to operate the Dodgers if MLB had not blocked a lucrative television-rights deal with Fox. The threat of legal action against MLB led to an unprecedented private sale of the team through the financial services firm Blackstone Advisory Partners in which McCourt -- not the league or McCourt's fellow owners -- had final approval over what turned out to be a record sale of $2.15 billion to a group led by Magic Johnson.