In his Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons said of David Stern: “Just know that he’s either the first- or second-best sports commissioner ever (depending on how you feel about Pete Rozelle) [...] Maybe Stern didn’t make the league take off, but he was flying the plane masterfully when it happened.”
Almost assuredly the most famous non-player face of the league, current NBA Commissioner David Stern will be stepping down tomorrow, February 1st, 30 years after taking the job. For many NBA fans, he is the only commissioner they have ever known, and likely one of the most polarizing figures to grace the league.
There is no denying that David Stern had an enormous influence on the league, and the league would not be where it is today without him. I have observed many different fan reactions to him over the years, ranging from “He neutered defense and favors big markets” to “He built the NBA into what it is today” to “He robbed the Lakers of Chris Paul.”
I personally fall in the middle of the spectrum. I appreciate what he did for the league, but feel he overstayed his era by a good five years. That is all a moot point now, and it will be very interesting to see what his successor Adam Silver has in store for the league.
Not to over dramatize it, but the league is at a crossroads. Having lived overseas last year, believe me when I say that basketball is really starting to take off worldwide. I saw NBA gear in literally every country I traveled to, and more foreign players are making it to the NBA every year.
Additionally, I find the NBA to be the American sports league best poised for the future. The NFL is currently being rocked by the concussion scandal, which is forcing the game to fundamentally change. Baseball, at least in my experience, is becoming less and less of an interest for the younger generations. Hockey is hanging around, but I would not yet classify it on the level of those other three leagues.
This is why I am ecstatic to see Silver take the reins. He strikes me as a commissioner who will really look to expand and improve the league in any way possible. If there’s one complaint I have for the end of Stern’s era, it’s that he seemed too content with how things were going, instead of constantly probing for improvement.
I still think it is a ways off, but Silver has repeatedly gone on the record about “continu[ing] to look at” overseas possibilities. He may also finally be the one to do something about the outdated draft lottery system, which is leading to the current glut of teams attempting to “tank.” I consider tanking to be the single most detestable facet of the league right now, and would love to see it prevented.
While he recently said not to expect immediate, large changes, I’m still excited what may come during Silver’s reign. If you’re reading this, you’re a fan of the NBA and want to see it continue to do well. Stern did his part these last 30 years, and now it’s time to see what Silver’s future version of the league has in store.