1. LARRY O’BRIEN
Some would have you think NBA Commissioner David Stern pulls strings like the most powerful man in America to get his way. The NBA Commissioner who preceded Stern from 1975-84, however, actually knew those people. In fact, he helped them get there during his Forrest Gump life. O’Brien was seemingly everywhere in American history in the 20th century, from seeing the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson Era breathe life into the NBA he governed, to leading John F. Kennedy’s 1952 Senate seat win. That win set up Kennedy’s run to the presidency, which O’Brien led as campaign manager. O’Brien was a special assistant to JFK who was five cars behind him when he was assassinated. O’Brien — born in Springfield, Mass., of course — helped pick out the former president’s coffin. O’Brien knew people.
The office that was burglarized during Watergate? It belonged to O’Brien, who was twice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
O’Brien’s assist to the presidency for JFK does affect history in two, Butterfly Effect ways. If O’Brien hadn’t helped get him elected, would JFK be alive today? And how would the eventual president have handled the Cuban Missile Crisis? See, Larry O’Brien didn’t just revitalize the NBA, he set in motion the election of a president who kept America from going to nuclear war, possibly saving the league as we know it. He wasn’t the man taking the Oath of Office, sure, but he also wasn’t suiting up on the hardwood either and yet he was an ingenious actor in both politics’ and basketball’s fate. And you thought he was just the name on the NBA’s title trophy.
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