David Stern Retirement: Why Entire NBA Will Miss Legendary Commissioner in 2014

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2012

Stern (right) and his eventual replacement Adam Silver (left).
Stern (right) and his eventual replacement Adam Silver (left).Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

It won't affect the 2013 NBA Finals participants or the MVP race, but it still ranks as some of this offseason's biggest news.

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that David Stern's days are numbered. Obtaining information via an email from sources, Wojnarowski explains Commissioner Stern will step down Nov. 1, 2014 and hand the job off to Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.

Once we get past the understandable elation surrounding the departure of an increasingly unpopular NBA commissioner, we probably owe David Stern a fair shake.

Barring any scandalous revelations confirming years of conspiratorial speculation, history will almost certainly judge Stern more kindly than we have. It won't be predicated upon charitable revisionism either.

No, Stern was never the smoothest operator, never the most endearing personality.

Stern's dismissive attitude and heavy-handed reprisals against criticism earned him a reputation bordering on the tyrannical, and there was certainly truth to that perception.

His oversight of a league suffering from a broadening gap between the haves and have-nots and plagued by lockout was a different story, however.

We can't blame the league's systemic failures on Stern any more than we can blame an incumbent president for inheriting a dire economic recession.

The buck may have stopped with Stern, but we'd do well to remember that he was less powerful than he let on.

The real dictator here wasn't a single person at all. It was the money to be made—and haggled over—by owners and players alike. There's nothing Stern could have done about that, and it's unlikely Silver will be able to do anything about it either.

But where there were opportunities to act, Stern did so decisively.

When the New Orleans Hornets were on the verge of leaving New Orleans, the league took control of the franchise to ensure the team's sale didn't pile on to a city already beset by tragedy.

When Chris Paul was LA-bound, Stern vetoed the deal, thereby incurring the wrath of his most lucrative franchise—and its legions of fans. He did so to preserve some shred of league-wide competitive parity and to usher the Hornets into a concerted rebuilding process rather than the years of mediocrity that would have otherwise ensued.

Neither of those decisions were well-reviewed by the media or league stakeholders, but their unpopularity should in some sense tell us something about Stern: at least he wasn't pandering. 

Most importantly, though, Stern oversaw the league's evolution into a global phenomenon.

As the NBA's Executive Vice President in the early 1980s, he played an important role in the introduction of a salary cap and drug testing, both measures that contributed to a more legitimate and reputable image.

After Stern became Commissioner in 1984, the league took even greater strides to expand its fan base overseas and add seven new teams to the NBA's ranks. You can't bear witness to the league's meteoric growth without thinking the guy was doing something right.

Michael Jordan may deserve a lot of the credit, but not to the exclusion of behind-the-scenes decision-makers who put the NBA in a position to succeed.

To any of those achievements, Stern's critics will invariably respond with a series of "Yeah, but..." rejoinders, and they may very well be right to do so.

But even those critics will miss Stern, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Who will we blame when things go wrong from here on out?