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.