Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - On Saturday, with less fanfare than a
sale at your local car dealership, David Stern will resign as commissioner of
the NBA, handing over the reins to Adam Silver.
There will be no pomp, no circumstance, just a documentary on NBA TV Friday
night about Stern's 30 years of service.
No ceremonies now, nor during All-Star weekend in two weeks.
"Nothing public," Tim Frank, the NBA's senior vice president for basketball
communications, said in an email.
Sort of makes the selection of a Pope seem excessive, right?
So that is how Stern will leave. He is the longest-reigning commissioner of a
U.S. sports league and it won't hamper people's cartoon watching on Saturday
Stern's legacy is overwhelmingly positive.
When he took the job in 1984, he propelled the sport to heights that were
previously unimaginable. It helped having the greatest athlete of all-time in
Michael Jordan, a charismatic wizard named Magic and a country hillbilly named
Bird, but Stern's stewardship was at the center of it all.
Salaries are astronomically higher than ever. Owners' checking accounts are
incomprehensible for average civilians to understand and the league could
easily have a money room at headquarters to just swim around in like Scrooge
Stern's biggest achievement might be the globalization of the sport. This
season, regular-season games were contested in London and the league even
tried one in Mexico City until smoke overwhelmed the arena.
Foreign players make up a huge portion of NBA rosters and even two All-Stars
are from places outside the United States.
Stern was a principal architect in getting professionals into the 1992
Olympics. Ever heard of the Dream Team, the real one? Stern had a huge part in
Stern weeded drugs out of the league (pun intended), not just steroids and HGH
(which the league still doesn't have a fool-proof plan to combat), but the
He implemented a dress code for players that was originally panned and decried
as possibly racist. Now, every player is dressed very sporty when not in
uniform and no one complains about it.
Stern oversaw the explosion of a sport. He had assistance, sure. The product
is what sells and the players participating in said product most specifically.
But without true leadership, the NBA wouldn't be where it is now, which is a
billion-dollar, international force.
You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Same is true for Stern. In
30 years, there were certainly some warts.
There were four work-stoppages on his watch and while the sport endured, Stern
took some criticism for the last one, especially from the players.
The Brawl at The Palace was a black eye for the league, but Stern acted
swiftly and sternly (pun intended, again, can't control myself). Of the 156
games Stern suspended all parties involved, only 10 were overturned on appeal
by a federal arbitrator.
The micro-fiber ball is a personal favorite, but once again, Stern
acknowledged a mistake and the leather ball was back three months into the
There's always the crazy conspiracy theory that Stern rigged the 1985 NBA
Draft Lottery so the New York Knicks got the No. 1 pick. That one has always
scared me to my core, not that such a thing could have happened, but that
people believe it could have.
Stern vetoed a three-team deal when the league owned the New Orleans franchise
that would've sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a fair deal
and didn't need intervention.
The true tarnish on Stern's legacy is the Tim Donaghy affair. No matter how
often Stern uttered the words "rouge official," a cheating scandal among the
sacred arbitrators of the game was a disaster. It called into question
everything Donaghy stained with his touch.
But, Stern guided the NBA through it all.
If you balance 30 years, Stern was an incredibly gifted leader. He was
extremely tough, but fair in handing down discipline, and there are several
men with extremely large houses that have Stern to thank, at least in part.
It's impossible to rank commissioners among the various sports. Leagues are
too different and the issues facing the men in charge vary.
Stern is the best commissioner in the history of the NBA. There's no question
about that. Is he better than Pete Rozelle in the NFL? Who knows, but Stern
will be missed.
Is it too late for something big to celebrate him?
- Didn't get my knickers in a twist about the All-Star reserves. I had
DeMarcus Cousins in over Dirk Nowitzki on the West, but it's not something I'd
argue about. Lance Stephenson should've made the East team ahead of Joe
Johnson. I don't understand that one, but again, I wouldn't open a federal
investigation about it.
- The only two players in the NBA averaging seven rebounds and five assists
this season are Kevin Durant and Stephenson. One is cruising toward the MVP,
the other can't make the All-Star team in the pathetic Eastern Conference.
- I'm an advocate of the old system that features a center getting voted in,
both as a starter and reserves. The Eastern Conference features three centers
among reserves and it's still not a valid position worthy of starting status?
- Kyrie Irving can want out of Cleveland all he wants, it isn't happening.
Irving isn't the problem. Dion Waiters is part of it. Mike Brown is not a
great fit for this young team, although discipline and accountability should
be a priority for this immature unit.
- With Kobe Bryant not playing in the NBA All-Star Game, I'd expect Anthony
Davis gets named as his replacement. The game is in New Orleans, he's having a
big season, so it all works.
- Weird how J.R. Smith's production has improved and the New York Knicks go
back to the small lineup that was successful last season, and they win.
- Movie moment - "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" was poorly named.
- TV moment - I've never been a big fan of Jimmy Fallon. I felt he went to the
school of Trying Too Hard, but his two-hour "best of" special was solid. He
gets celebrities to do funny things. That's an immeasurable quality and a good
one to have.
The Sports Network