David Stern, best commissioner of all time, to retire in 2014

David Stern announced to the owners that he’ll step down from his role as commissioner of the NBA after 30 years in 2014. The board has elected long time assistant Adam Silver to replace Stern. I don’t have enough superlatives to throw around about David Stern’s role as commissioner, who easily ranks as the best commissioner in US sports history.

To view the job he’s done one only need to take a look at where the NBA was when he took over and the challenges he’s faced. The league has prospered under Stern despite going up against the NFL and NHL every year. He’s presided over many labor disputes never missing a season and always crafting a better deal for the league.

He changed the way the league marketed the game. He made it about the stars, he got us excited to see Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. He highlighted their individual brilliance and made America, and then the world, fall in love with NBA basketball.

He’s been the most approachable commissioner, regularly doing TV/Radio appearances, open to debate, and firing back publicly at those who criticize him. I’ve often disagreed with Stern’s takes on subject and often be enraged by some of the stuff I’d hear om the radio, but the fact he was out there saying it, so obviously invested, always struck me as a plus.

He’d spare publicly with Mark Cuban, call players out in the press, and lay down a merciless hammer on those who disagreed with him. Many felt he was a dictator, and in many ways he probably was, but the most efficient way to run an organization is through dictatorship.

Stern was never scared to stir the pot or directly confront his detractors, and he’s always gotten the job done. He’s made landmark changes to the game (age limit, salary cap rules, draft rules, seeding changes, competitive changes, etc..), globalized the sport of basketball, and increased the popularity of a sport featuring a hip-hop culture which hasn’t always appealed to the nation’s wealthy.

David Stern, you will be missed, and Adam Silver, you’ve got some big shoes to fill.


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  • " who easily ranks as the best commissioner in US sports history."

    I'm not saying Stern wasn't the best, but I think Pete Rozelle could give him a run for the money. Under his watch, the NFL all but replaced MLB as America's game.

    As stated, I am not going to argue that Stern wasn't the best, but I do argue that it is closer than you express in terms of GoAT status.

    As for current commissioners, it isn't even close. He all but planted Bettman in the NHL to deliberately kill one competitor, Bud Selig has been horrendous (tradition is the reason not to get calls right using replay, but then you urinate all over the post season format; not to mention the tragedy that is the all-star game deciding home field) and Roger Goodell is all things I dislike about Stern taken to Level 10 (e.g. Stern being a level 7 narcissist this past decade, Goodell is a steady 10...and Nigel may need to crank it to 11) with a side of masochistic hypocrisy thrown in for good measure; with little to redeem (at least Stern has many more good traits to counter-balance any negative).

    The thing I'll always remember about Stern is his reaction to being booed mercilessly at the onset of the NBA draft these past few years. Not only does he smile and take it, but it almost seems as if he basks in it. Well played, Mr. Stern, well played!

  • In reply to Salvamini:

    I agree you can make a case for Rozelle, I think Stern had a much tougher job to sell the NBA than Rozelle had to sell the NFL, but it's worth noting the NFL's rise from sort of pedestrian sport to super behemoth.

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  • I didn't care for Stern at all, especially during strikes. I look at a commish as an arbiter between the owners and players, all Stern was was a shill for the owners, and he seemed to work apart from the owners with strong-arm tactics of his own. He always seemed to side with the more extreme owners like Jordan.

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Good riddance!

  • In reply to SFToby:

    You know the commissioner is hired by the owners right? Of course he's in their pocket as would any commissioner be.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Being hired by the owners doesn't mean he needs to side with the extremists.

    I'd love to see a commish that's funded and approved by both the owners and players' union.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Agreed. Everyone is either directly or indirectly hired by the owners, that's why they're the owners. In a perfect world the commish should act as an inbetween of the 2 sides. Having said that, I agree Doug that Stern is the best commish of all time, although Paul Tagliabue is a favorite of mine, & Stern easily the most entertaining of all time as well.

  • Let me first emphasize that I'm not exactly sure how much of an impact Stern has had on things like player discipline and player safety, or just how those procedures work and who has how much pull in decisions relating to that type of stuff (Stu Jackson? Players Union influence? etc.).

    With that said, it needs to be mentioned how absolutely disgraceful it is how the NBA has handled thug behavior from players like Bynum, Artest (and perhaps others that I'm currently blanking on), who have repeatedly put other players livelihood, and even lives, in danger.

    What an interesting feeling it must be to know that you can knock a defenseless player out of mid-air, SEVERAL TIMES, in the process risking ending his season, his career, or his life, and, as a ''punishment'', repeatedly receive dinky little 5-ish game suspensions.

    Or be a player (who, again, has a history) who can wind up and slam another player IN THE HEAD with an elbow, in the second to last game of the regular season, and come back to play THE SAME SEASON.

    Again, I'm not sure of the degree of Stern's influence here, but these types of things absolutely must be mentioned in any assessment of his tenure.

  • Here's another take on Stern:


  • I for one am glad to see him go. Many of the things he has done as commissioner have been largely hit or miss. His marketing strategies have been largely responsible for breeding the notion that, the NBA is filled with nothing but a bunch of selfish ,me first players. He should have focused more on selling the merits of team play rather than individual performance. Furthermore, when Jordan was playing, Stern had arguably the world's greatest player and the perfect icon to help propel his game to unprecedented heights. However, after Jordan retired, Stern became obsessed with the idea of cultivating that next greatest player and ambassador of the game. In his quest to mold the next superstar, Stern began altering the dynamics of the game, adopting rules such as, the no hand check rule, that were designed to favor style over substance, thus watering down the game. He also instructed his official's to give his star players special treatment rather than having them officiate a call it as you see it game. Many of these measures that Stern has taken have led some to question the integrity of the game.
    As a marketer of the game, Stern has been a mega success but as far as protecting the purity of the game, he has been a tremendous failure.

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