Salute to Mr. David Stern
David Stern graduated from Columbia Law School. He was an outside counsel for the NBA in 1966. He moved up to General Counsel in 1978 and by 1980 he was the Executive Vice President of the NBA. On February 1, 1984 Stern became the Commissioner of the NBA. Two years ago Stern announced that he would retire on February 1, 2014. David Stern has been the NBA Commissioner for 30 years. He has been a part of four NBA lockouts; he has expanded the league, vetoed a trade and even introduced the NBA Dress Code. For all the things he has accomplished in his 30 year tenure, most people consider him to be the best Commissioner of all time.
I wasn’t alive when Stern took over as Commissioner but like many of you I have done my research on certain topics. Stern’s first NBA draft was memorable, Hakeem Olajuwon (1st), Michael Jordan (3rd), Charles Barkley (5th) and John Stockton (16th). All of these player s would go on to make the Hall of Fame. Stern did more than call the names of future hall of famers. He cleaned up the game. I read that a lot of NBA players used cocaine back in the 70s and 80s. Players such as Lewis Lloyd, Mitchell Wiggins and Michael Ray Richardson were banned permanently after testing positive for cocaine. Each player was eventually reinstated but their careers were over. The biggest lost due to cocaine was the death of Len Bias. Again I was not born when Len Bias played but I heard stories that he could have been one of the best players ever. He was an explosive athlete who was drafted 2nd by the Boston Celtics. He was supposed to be the “Heir Apparent” to Larry Bird. However Bias died two days after he was drafted due to a cocaine overdose.
Stern along with the NBA Players Association reinstated the salary cap that we know today. Stern wanted to level the playing field and have a balance in the league. I’m not sure if there has been a real balance in the league considering a handful of teams have won NBA championships. More than anything Stern has expanded the NBA, both globally and locally. There have been seven new teams including the Grizzlies, Raptors and Bobcats. In 1992 he was involved in sending NBA players to the Olympics, thus forming the “Dream Team”. In today’s game there are 92 players from 39 countries and territories. There have been many international stars in the league, including Yao Ming who was the first foreign player without U.S. college experience to be drafted number 1 overall. Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Dirk Nowitzki are other international stars in the game.
In April 1997 David Stern helped usher in the WNBA. The league started with only eight teams but now is up to twelve. There have been many great WNBA players including Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper and many others. The league now has many talented women playing on ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC.
I do remember when Stern implemented the NBA Dress Code. My favorite player Allen Iverson was very upset about it and he thought Stern was targeting the “hip hop era”. I think the dress code has been very good for the league. Players are showing more style and being more creative. There have been many discussions about Russell Westbrook’s attire and even Dwyane Wade’s choice of style. People look up to these athletes and it is good to see them dress in a professional manner. Stern also tried to introduce a new basketball. Most players did not like the new ball but Stern still went ahead with the plan. That plan did not last long and was quickly replaced by the old basketball.
Being in a position for 30 years will come with its share of controversies. There was the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery when the Knicks got the 1st pick of the draft and picked Patrick Ewing. People say there was a draft fix, but I don’t know what to believe. In 2011 Stern vetoed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. At that time the New Orleans Hornets were owned by the league. It was debated by many sports outlets and Paul was eventually traded to the rival Clippers.
There have been two major lockouts that led to shorten seasons in the NBA. In 30 years of work you cannot be perfect. Under David Stern the league now has 30 franchises and it is televised in over 200 countries. I haven’t been around for everything that David Stern has done for this league that I love but I believe he has done a great job. I salute Mr. David Stern for a job well done.