After 30 years on the job, NBA commissioner David Stern will call it a career, and hand off the commissionership to current deputy Adam Silver.
Despite fans’ caricature of Stern as the sinister superstar and big market favouring overlord who rigs drafts and playoff series, in reality of course Stern has presided over one of the most successful stewardships over a professional sports league in recent memory. In addition to significant structural adjustments such as implementing the salary cap, he’s helped grow the sport both in the States and worldwide, guided by a prescient vision of where sports entertainment would be headed in the future.
Unlike other leagues who have either rejected or incompetently utilized the internet and social media, the NBA has pioneered the digital revolution with the excellent (until last week’s overhaul at least, sheesh) NBA.com, NBA League Pass on broadband, its liberal attitudes towards NBA clips being put up on Youtube, and embracing the use of Facebook and Twitter. The NBA under Stern has made it as easy to be a diehard NBA fan in Auckland, New Zealand as it is in Buffalo, New York.
He also recognized emerging basketball markets overseas in countries like China, Australia and throughout Europe, and has helped market his star players to the point where of the nine athletes who earn the most endorsement money in the world, three of them are NBA players.
So while we can still make our snide comments about the “frozen envelope” in the 1985 draft lottery, or the fishy officiating in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, let’s take a moment to appreciate David Stern, that smarmy, arrogant, little genius.