SBD/January 31, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

David Stern's Tenure As NBA Commissioner Lauded By Execs, Players, Media

Stern retires Friday after 30 years as the league's top exec
NBA Commissioner David Stern is "unlike any pro sports commissioner before him or likely to follow" and "belongs among the faces of his game,"according to Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Stern ends his 30-year tenure as commissioner on Friday having "grown past his role as the NBA’s chief executive to a symbol of his times for good, bad and everything in between" (CHRON.com, 1/30). The AP's Brian Mahoney wrote, "Try to find an NBA legacy more lasting than David Stern's." In Toronto, Doug Smith writes Stern "could be demanding and given to fits of anger but what good leader doesn’t demand the best of those under him?" There can be "no denying that under Stern’s guidance, the NBA has become the gold standard for professional sports in the ever-shrinking world" (TORONTO STAR, 1/31). On Long Island, Al Iannazzone wrote Stern is “probably the greatest commissioner in professional sports,” as his “fingerprints are everywhere” (NEWSDAY, 1/25).

GROWING THE GAME: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote there is "no denying Stern's accomplishments or his leadership in steering the NBA out of the peripheral view of American sports and into the passing lane." Stern introduced NBA basketball "to the world with the Dream Team, and his stubborn imperialism has given us exhibition games and scattered regular season games all over the globe" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/30). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Shaun Powell wrote of Stern was the “right man at the right time” for the NBA. The league “became sexy on the small screen, and Stern spread the game over multiple networks while pushing the NBA to become the first league to create its own network and website.” However, Stern “had his quirks and his faults and became kind of contradictory with some of his policies” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 1/27). In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes, "When coming generations have no direct experience of the man, and the noisy crossfire of this transition is muted, he will be remembered as the one man who faithfully reflected the league’s greatness and its limitations." Alessandro: "Here’s what most of us never understood: It was Stern’s job to make the media less relevant, year after year -- mostly by limiting access and seating them near the roof of the palaces they helped fill by sharing their enthusiasm for a league that was a unique joy to cover." Stern "cannot be blamed for growing his business." He "never lied about his goals, and he is no less ethical than any other businessman" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 1/31).

TOUGH NEGOTIATOR: In DC, Mike Wise writes Stern "never lost an entire regular season or a postseason to labor disputes." Neither MLB Commissioner Bud Selig nor NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "can say that." Even on his "most omnipotent, arrogant days he also never took on the imperiousness" of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (WASHINGTON POST, 1/31). Lakers C Pau Gasol: "His strength has probably taken some things away from us (players), but has benefited the owners in a major way and made the NBA a more attractive business for potential owners."(ESPNLA.com, 1/30). Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said of negotiating with Stern as part of the league's competition committee, "You never knew in the meetings if you were there because you really had a say or if you were being manipulated" (ESPNLA.com, 1/30).

COLOR BLIND: The AP's Mahoney wrote from the "way the players dressed -- on and off the court -- to the length of lines at concession stands, nothing was too minor for Stern's involvement." Stern has "said he's proudest of the league's diversity, and that goes from the court all the way up to the league office (AP, 1/30). In N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote whether one “views Stern as a great commissioner or an unrelenting capitalist, it is hard to argue that he was not what the noted black sports sociologist Harry Edwards once called him — ‘an honest broker’ -- for a largely African-American player pool as it ascended to the pantheon of mainstream American and international entertainment” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26). The WASHINGTON POST's Wise writes, "In hindsight, Stern didn’t sell a black sport to white America; he sold great athletes and good stories to a paying audience willing to accept some of the flawed characters for who they were" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/31). Heat Owner Micky Arison: "There was no quota, no Rooney Rule, none of those things. There was just appointing people of different race, different color, different gender to senior positions and it happened at the league level and team level" (AP, 1/20). Raptors coach Dwane Casey: "He's done so much for racial integration; there is an opportunity for everyone, no matter what colour. I think sometimes that's lost" (TORONTO STAR, 1/31). TNT's Charles Barkley said, "All the players are household names and people forget the NBA was considered a bunch of black guys who did drugs and who were thugs." ("Inside the NBA," TNT, 1/30).

LEGACY
: SI.com conducted a roundtable discussion about Stern's tenure. Ian Thomsen said, "Stern saw a potential for the NBA that transcended the domestic aims of the rival leagues in America." Lee Jenkins: "Stern is definitely the best commissioner in NBA history. In sports history, I'd put him in the top two. ... Stern has carried the league to unfathomable heights." Thomsen added, "Future generations may be more impressed by his foresight than the generations he has served over the last three decades." Jon Wertheim said, "Stern is certainly on the sports commish Mt. Rushmore. He completely transformed his league in a way that, I would argue, no other commissioner has" (SI.com, 1/30). NBA.com’s David Aldridge offered an oral history of Stern’s career, with Warriors President & COO Rick Welts and Colangelo among others offering their views of the retiring commissioner. Aldridge: “Stern has ruled the NBA for 30 years with a velvet glove, iron fist, breathtaking intellect, inexhaustible work ethic, a personal sense of right and wrong, and a love for basketball” (NBA.com, 1/27). The L.A. TIMES’ Bolch listed the “30 biggest events” of Stern’s tenure (L.A. TIMES, 1/26).

Stern helped expand interest in the league with TV
partners and int'l outreach

FROM THE FRONT OFFICE: Mavericks President & CEO Terdema Ussery called Stern a "brilliant commissioner and, on a personal level, a great mentor." Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle: "Greatest commissioner in sports history. An innovator on all levels, particularly marketing. And he’s adjusted. And his vision of the game becoming a global game will ultimately transform our sport" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/31). Former Suns Owner Jerry Colangelo: "He was a young, very highly thought of lawyer when he came into basketball. And he made himself a marketing guy. He just put his mind to it and he really got himself involved in new technology like cable television, which was a kind of a new thing back then. So he was prepared to take the league to another level." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban:, "He didn't make short-term decisions, he made long-term decisions" (AP, 1/30).  Former Knicks GM Dave Checketts: “He mastered the art of making the owners think they worked for him.” He added, “Most commissioners are a referee. … But David Stern was a true chief executive.” (DESERET NEWS, 1/27).

PLAYER PERSPECTIVE: Former NBAer Yao Ming said, "I think he is the greatest person in NBA history. He made everything happen." Former WNBAer Rebecca Lobo: "If you know him even a little bit, he's not a guy who wants anything to fail. And so him starting this league, he would make sure it wouldn't fail in those early stages." TNT's Charles Barkley: "It's going to be interesting, to be honest with you, because I don't see how you can make the NBA more successful than David Stern has, but they're going to try" (AP, 1/30). TNT's Shaquille O'Neal said Stern "was the best commissioner and he was a fair guy and he will be missed." TNT's Kenny Smith said Stern is "the best commissioner ever in any sport" ("Inside the NBA," TNT, 1/30).

A LOOK AT THE MAN
: SHERIDAN HOOPS' Mark Heisler wrote there is "going to be an NBA without its commissioner of the last 30 years." It just "won't seem like the NBA, though." Heisler: "Whether you loved him, hated him, respected him or lived in fear of angering him, if you played, worked in or followed the NBA, you have him to thank" (SHERIDANHOOPS.com, 1/19). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote Stern was as "smart and imperious and charming and bullying and insightful and pigheaded as everyone has said he was, and then some" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/30). USA TODAY’s Jeff Zillgitt wrote Stern is “many things: intelligent, savvy, bold, stubborn, driven, competitive, charming, humorous, kind, biting, forceful and demanding” (USA TODAY, 1/27). In L.A., Ben Bolch wrote Stern has been “part comedian, part dictator, part visionary, part man on a mission.” Along the way to “building a global empire, Stern gave the impression he was having as much fun as any superstar player or courtside superfan” (L.A. TIMES, 1/26).
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