Adam Silver Grew Up Idolizing Magic Johnson

Adam Silver is on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. The issue contains a longform profile from Lee Jenkins on the commissioner which sheds light on Silver’s back story, including his childhood, growing up in New York, and most interesting of all, how he idolized Magic Johnson growing up.

You can read the entire profile here, and I highly recommend it because it adds so many layers to Adam Silver, the man we’ve simply viewed as David Stern’s number two guy for so long. One tidbit really caught my attention given its connection to the Donald Sterling saga.

In 1992, Magic Johnson came out of retirement to play in the All-Star Game in Orlando. He scored 25 points in 29 minutes including an awesome three-pointer to close it out:

At the time, Silver was 31-year-old associate at a law firm, but that game has a special place in his heart. From Jenkins’ profile:

Johnson holds a prominent place in Silver’s biography. In February 1992, Silver was a third-year associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City, working 110 hours a week on cases he knew would never go to trial. He had to record the NBA All-Star Game on his VCR, and when he finally returned to his Upper West Side apartment after midnight, he popped in the tape. “Magic made that shot at the end,” Silver remembers, “and I was sitting there alone with tears in my eyes.” Five months later he quit his career as a litigator and took a job with the NBA as a special assistant to commissioner David Stern.

It’s fascinating to consider how Magic played a part in Silver pursuing a career in the NBA, and eventually landing in the commissioner position. It also provides us with some insight as to how Silver must have been angered by Sterling’s comments about Magic on a personal level, seeing as how he was one of the players Silver grew up idolizing.

It’s also refreshing to see how open Silver has been with the players during his still-brief tenure as commissioner. When the Sterling news broke, Silver met with Chris Paul in Golden State and assured him he would investigate the audio tape and take swift action. He also told Paul, “We have an opportunity to be partners in everything we do.”

These are not empty words from the commissioner as he showed in his ensuing press conference. And even though the Sterling controversy has been brutal and ugly, and promises to dominate the headlines into the offseason, if there is one positive we can take from it, it’s that we finally learned who Silver is, and what he stands for. In such a short time since taking over from David Stern, Silver has become his own man, and it has become increasingly clear he is the perfect choice to lead the league in the years to come.

What do you think of Adam Silver’s tenure so far?

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