Follow The Leader: 3 Reasons Why David Stern Will Leave The NBA A Better Place


By Alex Wong / @steven_lebron

It was announced yesterday that David Stern will step down as commissioner of the NBA in 2014, passing on the position to Adam Silver as successor. When you've run a league for as long as Stern has, in a game with players as volatile and unpredictable as the NBA, there's going to be a long list of positives and negatives. We'll debate forever about the envelope that delivered Patrick Ewing to the Knicks, wonder whether Jordan retired on his own terms or was forced into a pseudo gambling suspension, but all conspiracies aside, this is truth: Stern will hand over to Silver a league that is thriving and more popular than ever. The challenge for Silver won't be to revive a dying brand, but to just maintain the standards that Stern has set for the NBA. Below are some highlights I think are worth noting.

1. Expanding the NBA brand and basketball as a global sport
Stern's tenure started at around the same time that Jordan entered the league, with Magic and Bird still in their primes. For everything that he's had to deal with - the best player in the game retiring at the height of his career, several lockouts, the Malice At The Palace, to name a few - he's come out of it and positioned the game of basketball to be as popular as ever, not just in North America but worldwide, especially in Asia where the game is poised to explode over the next decade.
No major sports league is better at marketing its individual players and creating excitement despite the fact that only a handful of teams have won titles in the past few decades.
Also worth noting, while it may be in financial trouble, Stern has kept the WNBA afloat, giving female basketball players a viable path as professionals, whereas previously the only choice out of college was to give up the game or to play for less than ideal wage and conditions overseas.

2. Being an adequate general manager
The timing optics of overruling the Chris Paul trade was not good for Stern or the league. But he did in the end act in the best interest of the New Orleans Hornets.
Had the trade gone through, the team would've landed four startes: Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom. The Hornets would've remained competitive in the short term but without cap room or high-end draft picks to sustain a viable future with the hopes of contending.
Instead, the Hornets now have Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon as their building blocks, a much preferred alternative for a mid-market team.
The Lakers have moved on already with their off-season acquisitions. The Rockets? Well, they should still have a beef as it cost them a chance to land a superstar in Gasol, something that general manager Daryl Morey had positioned himself to do for years.
But acting in the interest of the Hornets, Stern made the best decision in the end for the franchise.

3. Accidentally ushering in a new fashion era
The dress code that Stern enforced was not popular with anyone. Players felt they were being stripped of their freedom, and it's hard to overlook the message it sent: The commissioner didn't trust his players to represent the league and the brand properly on their own.
But it turned out to be a win-win. From a corporate standpoint, the intent of making the league more professional and accountable helped improve its image. From a players' standpoint, they found a way to still express themselves with their wardrobe.
The league got what it wanted, and the players retained what they thought was lost.
Everybody wins.
All hail David Joel Stern. What's your favorite memory of the only NBA commissioner many of us have ever known? 

6 Replies to “Follow The Leader: 3 Reasons Why David Stern Will Leave The NBA A Better Place”

  1. The dress code from a perception (and even an execution) standpoint ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to the NBA. Some paying customers (I won't say all, because I'm a paying customer, and the way players used to dress didn't bother me) feel more at ease when they see guys in clothes that fit, no rags, fitteds, sneakers, etc. Like someone said on TSS earlier this morning, I don't hear (as many) cries of "thug, hooligan, miscreant" like I did pre-dress code.

    Imma miss old Stern. A lot of it has to do with nostalgia. I grew up under his watch and saw what he did for the NBA. We'll see how his final act as Commish goes, but I think he should be given the utmost respect, even when people are pointing at his missteps.

  2. For sure Stern's had his missteps (one that jumps out to me is how the Sonics situation was handled), but it's hard managing 30 owners all with different business models and interests and policing the players as well.

    On the whole he's done great.

    The dress code thing is fascinating to me, and you make a good point Kenny, it really did improve the way people looked at the league and its players, and yet still left room for players to find their own creative freedom (ie. Westbrook).

  3. I think my favorite thing about Stern is that no matter what, the dude always had the utmost confidence and seemed to base every decision he made, whether fans, owners and players agreed all the time or not, on bettering the league. Sure, sometimes he had his missteps and he certainly could be his own enemy, but man, he really was/is a behemoth in sports.

    I'm gonna miss the way he embraced the villain role as well, basking in boos and always having a good time even in tough times. I think our old boy Roger Goodell could learn a thing or two about running a league from Stern.

    1. Stern's been nothing but an OG since he took the throne. Even when I disagreed with him on certain things, in the long run he's made decisions for the better. The thing I appreciate about him more than anything is that when he believed in something, he didn't back down not one bit.

      -Ed.

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