Instead, Sterling seems to have made things much worse.
The 80-year-old Los Angeles Clippers owner said he had "made a terrible mistake," but denied allegations that he's a racist.
"Am I entitled to one mistake, am I after 35 years?" Sterling told Anderson Cooper. "I mean, I love my league, I love my partners. Am I entitled to one mistake? It's a terrible mistake, and I'll never do it again," he said.
When Cooper asked if he had anything to say to Magic Johnson, however, Sterling said the retired NBA legend set a bad example for children.
"He acts so holy. I mean, he made love to every girl in every city in America. And he had AIDS," Sterling said. "And when he had those AIDS, I went to my synagogue and I prayed for him. I hoped he could live and be well. I didn't criticize him. I could have."
Sterling also claimed that Johnson "doesn't do anything" for African Americans.
Sterling: "What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?
Cooper: Well, he has -- he's a businessperson. He...
Sterling: He's got AIDS. Did he do any business? I would like -- did he help anybody in South L.A.?
Cooper: Well, I think he has HIV. He doesn't actually have full-blown AIDS, but...
Sterling: Well, what kind of a guy goes to every city, he has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV and -- is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? Doesn't do anything.
Johnson said in 1991 that he tested positive for HIV. He does not have AIDS, as Sterling suggests. In 1991, he also started the Magic Johnson Foundation, which promotes HIV/AIDS awareness and education and provides financial and educational support to economically disadvantaged communities in urban areas.
Cooper noted that Sterling sat down for the interview without the presence of his lawyers or PR team.
The CNN anchor also said he noticed little evidence of Shelly Sterling's recent claims that her estranged husband suffered from dementia.
"Well, I spoke with Donald Sterling for more than an hour," Cooper said. "And that certainly doesn't make me an expert on his mental state, but he did not strike me as someone who is suffering from dementia."
CNN has scheduled an interview with Johnson, set to air Tuesday.
"I'd rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling's interview," Johnson tweeted Monday night.
"I just read a transcript of Donald Sterling's interview with Anderson Cooper and while Magic Johnson doesn't need me to, I feel compelled on behalf of the NBA family to apologize to him that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack," Silver said. "The NBA Board of Governors is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible."