Sterling was also fined $2.5 million, the maximum allowable under the NBA's constitution, and the swift punishment was hailed by players, owners and coaches across the league.
Silver's action against Sterling is among the stiffest rebukes ever given to the owner of a professional sports team.
Here are five questions and answers about the situation.
Q: Why is Sterling in trouble?
A: TMZ released an audio recording last weekend of Sterling talking to a female companion. In the recording, Sterling questions her association with minorities, including Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson.
"Why are you taking pictures with minorities? Why?" Sterling asks the woman, V. Stiviano, who is of black and Mexican descent.
Sterling also tells Stiviano, "don't bring black people" to Clippers games.
Q: What was the reaction to the audio?
A: Sterling's comments elicited sharp response from players, owners, coaches, league sponsors and even President Barack Obama.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, arguably the two biggest stars in the league, called for Sterling's ouster. The Heat and Clippers both went through pregame warmups for their respective playoff games with their shooting shirts turned inside out as a silent protest. Some players said they were considering boycotting playoff games if Sterling remained in power.
Silver launched an investigation and several prominent corporate partners of the Clippers, including Mercedes-Benz, Kia and State Farm, said they were pulling their advertising from Clippers games in the wake of the comments.
"There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed," basketball icon and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan said. "I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport."
Q: What does the ban mean for Sterling?
A: Sterling will not be allowed to attend games or practices, be present at any Clippers facility or participate in any business dealings or player personnel decisions going forward. He also will not be allowed to represent the Clippers at any league functions, including the board of governors meetings.
Q: Can the owners really force Sterling to sell the team?
A: The NBA's constitution states that any owner can be forced out of the league with the vote of 75 percent of the remaining owners. That means if all 30 of the league's owners vote, 23 will have to vote in favor of his ouster.
Owners of several teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks, issued statements in support of Silver's decision and said they would vote to remove Sterling if proceedings get to that point.
Q: What are the financial implications of the incident?
A: Silver said it was too soon to tell if the corporate partners who pulled their advertisements would change course. But in taking such bold steps, Silver said it was his intention to send a strong message that racist views and language would not be tolerated.
"I'm outraged, so I certainly understand other people's outrage, and this will take some time, and appropriate healing will be necessary," Silver said. "I can understand precisely why, whether they be people affiliated with the NBA or the Clippers for a long time or those corporate partners. I can understand how upset they are, and I'll do my best to bring them back into the NBA family."