Effective Feb. 1, 2014 – 30 years to the day he took office – David Stern will officially retire as commissioner of the National Basketball Association leaving current Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver as his successor.
The announcement was made at the NBA Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday and was announced by Stern via a press conference. Coming not as a shocking surprise, Stern’s decision to step away from basketball has been hinted for several years, including aggressive requests by fans and media members alike for unpopular decisions (i.e. the Chris Paul to the Lakers thing that wasn’t). Of his decision, Stern reflected, “I don’t know what else to say other than to recite what I told the owners yesterday in executive session. I told them that it’s been a great run, it will continue for another 15 months, that the league is in, I think, terrific condition.”
For the most part, he’s right. Much can be said about the flopping mandate, the age limit rule, the most worthless lockout maybe ever, the technical foul holy war in recent years and the aggregating of multiple superstars on only a handful of teams. All remain legitimate concerns in a myriad of ways, but the negatives fail to outweigh what he’s brought to the game both financially and culturally. He’s been the driving force in spreading the league’s influence far behind American borders, opening doors with fruitful relations as far west as China. And before Stern, the league wasn’t exactly the greatest marketed business venture in the world.
Following Feb. 1, 1984, the NBA – thanks in part to Stern deciding to market the budding rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird along with arrival of Michael Jordan and a host of other good fortunes – began to explode and shed the stereotype of it being overran by athletic Black guys who just so happened to tickle their fancy in booger sugar (coke). And from there, the NBA and its popularity never looked back.
Stern’s ability to market personalities has made pop culture icons, thus in turn resulting in billions of dollars of revenue. The arrival of lucrative TV contracts for the NBA fell under his regime. And never underestimate Stern leaves Silver with influx of freakishly awesome talent since the ’80s and possibly the most anticipated draft class in recent memory.
So, sure, ridicule and call Stern whatever name in the book because there’s a good chance he deserves it. There’s also a good chance he’d laugh it off anyway. But when done handing out shade, cap it off with at least an ounce of respect. Positions of power never came with 100% approval rates anyway.