Hours after Shelly Sterling said she would fight to keep her ownership of the franchise even if her estranged husband can't, the league said that wouldn't be possible.
"Under the NBA constitution, if a controlling owner's interest is terminated by a three-quarter vote, all other team owners' interests are automatically terminated as well," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement.
"It doesn't matter whether the owners are related as is the case here. These are the rules to which all NBA owners agreed to as a condition of owning their team."
Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, responded to the NBA's statement.
"We do not agree with the league's self-serving interpretation of its constitution, its application to Shelly Sterling or its validity under these unique circumstances," O'Donnell said. "We live in a nation of laws. California law and the United States Constitution trump any such interpretation."
Donald Sterling has been banned for life for making racist comments and Commissioner Adam Silver is urging owners to force him out. But Shelly Sterling told ABC News' Barbara Walters on Sunday that she felt her stake in the team should be separate and that she "would love him to" consider transferring ownership to her if he is forced to sell.