10 David Stern Stories That Will Define His Legacy as NBA Commissioner
Since February 1, 1984, the NBA has been under the watch of commissioner David Stern. For 28 exhilarating years, Stern has provided us with phenomenal basketball, unparalleled brand expansion and financial wizardry.
As of February 1, 2014, that reign of brilliance will come to a close.
Stern, who turned 70 last month, will retire on the 30-year anniversary of being hired (via ESPN). Next in line to take on the commissioner duties will be deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
"It's been a great run. The league is in, I think, terrific condition," Stern said. "I'd like to think I did an adequate job. But one of the things I did best was provide a successor. I'm not going anyplace in the next 15 months, but this gives us the opportunity to have a very smooth transition."
This is going to be the end of an extraordinary era. As for those who missed out on what Stern has accomplished, the following 10 slides will offer insight into the memorable, and not-so pleasant, moments of his tenure.
Each of these has defined his legacy as one of the greatest commissioners in the history of sports.
10. Creating the D-League
One of the most quiet moves of David Stern's tenure was his creation of the NBA Development League in 2001. The league opened up with eight teams and took on former college and International standouts that did not make an NBA roster.
Notable D-League alumni include Jeremy Lin, Dorell Wright, J.J. Barea, Brandon Bass, Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes and C.J. Watson.
Since its inaugural season, the D-League has expanded to three divisions and 16 teams. That's twice as many teams as it had upon its creation in 2001.
It also provides twice the amount of opportunities to NBA hopefuls. Once again, this is all a product of David Stern.
9. Team Relocations
One of the most unfortunate aspects of David Stern's tenure is the consistent relocation of NBA franchises. Since Stern took over in 1985, five teams have changed either cities or states.
In 1985, the Kansas City Kings moved to Sacramento. This was the first of a handful of high-profile moves in which small-market teams moved to more prominent cities.
Since 2001, the Charlotte Hornets have relocated to New Orleans, the Vancouver Grizzlies have left Canada to go to Memphis and the Seattle SuperSonics have moved to Oklahoma City. Charlotte, meanwhile, received a new franchise in 2004.
Most recently, the New Jersey Nets moved one state over to play in Brooklyn. The expansion continues and relocations never end, as another move could be in the works.
Seattle is in the process of building an arena to qualify itself for an NBA franchise of its own (via Sports Illustrated).
8. Creating the Dream Team
One of the quiet truths about international basketball is the fact that David Stern is directly responsible for the way it is today. Despite his recent remarks about an under-23 age limit, Stern was one of the major orchestrators of the 1992 Dream Team (via ESPN).
After settling for a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, how could we expect anything less?
Well, in actuality, Stern didn't want the NBA to be a part of the Olympic Games. After being voted in to be a part of them, however, Stern responded by guaranteeing a gold medal by bringing together the greatest collection of talent in sports history (via GQ).
The 1992 Dream Team.
7. Changing the Rules
For those of you who are modern day NBA fans, you are likely familiar with the most recent rule change of the David Stern era. This, of course, came when Stern cracked down on "flopping," which many felt had damaged the integrity of the game (via ESPN).
For those who have had the privilege of living through Stern's 28-year tenure, however, you are probably well-aware of the fact that he has been active in tweaking the rules all along.
In 1988, the NBA increased the number of referees officiating games from two to three. In 1993, Stern instituted a league-wide rule that any player who attempts to throw a punch, lands a punch or leaves the bench area during the fight will be automatically suspended.
Between 1999 and 2001, Stern would proceed to alter the way defense is played.
Viewed by many as an attempt to increase the level of offensive production, Stern eliminated hand checking, forearm checking below the free throw line and instituted the "defensive three-in-the-key" rule.
In 2005, Stern instituted a controversial dress-code for players in an attempt to clean up the image of the NBA. In recent years, the complaints have died down and the NBA has increased in popularity and quality of image.
In 2006, Stern made his most significant move of all.
Despite the success of players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James, Stern created a rule that disallowed high school students to enter the NBA draft. A player must now be 19 years old within the calendar year of the draft they plan to enter.
Stern hopes to extend the age limit for another year (via ESPN.com).
6. Banning Stars
David Stern has been strict, conservative and protective of the NBA. When something isn't going the way he wants it to, he takes action and makes sure that everything adjusts appropriately.
A clear example is how Stern has handed out severe punishments to the NBA's greatest rule violators.
Gilbert Arenas was suspended for the final 50 games of the 2010 NBA season after pulling a gun on a teammate in a locker room confrontation (via ESPN.com). Ron Artest was suspended for 73 games after engaging in a brawl with fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit (via ESPN.com).
As the article referencing Artest's suspension continues to state, three other players were suspended for at least 25 games under Stern's watch. Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal played a role in the previously-alluded-to brawl.
Latrell Sprewell, meanwhile, was suspended 68 games for choking head coach P.J. Carlesimo. A handful of others received lifetime bans.
As for those who believe Stern made the wrong move by banning these stars, Michael Ray Richardson will tell you the opposite. Richardson was banned for life by Stern in 1986 after failing three drug tests (via FSN Florida).
With that being said, Richardson will tell you that Stern made the right decision.
"I sat next to him and I told him that he saved my life," Richardson, who eventually was reinstated but never did play again in the NBA, said Thursday in a phone interview with FOX Sports Florida. "His eyes just lit up. Here was the guy that had ended my career, but I did not hold any grudges. Ever since then, we've had a relationship."
5. NBA Lockouts
In 1995, the NBA experienced its first lockout from July 1 to September 12, and on July 10, 1996, the league experienced its second lockout in as many years.
This one lasted mere hours before Stern orchestrated an agreement between the players and owners.
In 1998, the NBA experienced its third lockout. For the first time in league history, however, the lockout forced the regular season to be shortened by a full 50 games as the delay in negotiations ranged from July 1 to January 20.
In 2011, the league experienced its first lockout in 13 years. The negotiations lasted from July 1 to December 8 and forced the league to be limited to a condensed 66-game regular season schedule (via ESPN.com).
Through all of the controversy, Stern has managed to stand his ground and achieve what he set out to. Albeit controversial, Stern has represented the owners as he has been expected to.
4. Live Television
Prior to David Stern's appointment as NBA commissioner, the NBA Finals were recorded and then aired later that night. Things changed though when Stern signed a two-year, $25 million cable deal with TBS and four-year, $173 million deal with CBS for network appearances (via CBS Sports).
Stern would continue to sign more lucrative deals for the league. It reached new heights in 2008, when Stern re-signed with TNT and ABC/ESPN for a grand total of eight years and $7.44 billion.
Yet another example of Stern's business and financial savvy.
What this has led to is international exposure for the NBA that it had never previously dreamed of achieving. Stern has brought the NBA from what was an NHL-type level of exposure to a parallel with the NFL and MLB.
If you can't appreciate that, proceed to walk away from this conversation.
3. League Expansion
When David Stern took over as commissioner in 1984, the league consisted of 23 teams. 28 years later, there are a grand total of 30 NBA franchises.
Between 1988 and 1989, the league would expand to 27 teams by adding franchises to the cities of Miami, Charlotte, Minnesota and Orlando.
In 1995, Stern would make the NBA an international commodity when he orchestrated the creation of NBA franchises in Toronto and Vancouver in Canada. 2004 marked the final creation of a new franchise with the Charlotte Bobcats.
As a result of this expansion, the NBA has progressed into becoming both a domestic and international phenomenon. The popularity of the league has increased as more franchises have been created, with players having more opportunities to find a new home.
To say that the NBA has grown under David Stern's watch would be an understatement. Whether you approve of his methods or not, there's no way around one simple fact.
2. Creation of the Draft Lottery
Prior to 1985, the top pick in the NBA Draft was selected by virtue of a coin toss. The two worst teams in the league would represent the heads and tails, thus resulting in a 50-50 chance of owning the rights to the first overall draft choice.
In 1985, David Stern changed the NBA forever when he instituted the Draft Lottery.
This process led to many cries of conspiracy when the New York Knicks won the inaugural first overall pick and selected Patrick Ewing out of Georgetown.
At first, the lottery consisted of quite an interesting process. Stern would draw envelopes out of a rotating bin, thus naming each and every non-playoff team's placement.
In other words, your win-loss record meant nothing if you weren't in the postseason.
In 1987, Stern began to alter the process when he made it so only the first three picks were selected via lottery. From there on out, the rest of the first round would be decided by a reverse order of each team's win-loss record.
In 1990, the concept underwent a significant change when the NBA began utilizing a weighted system. In other words, a team's odds of winning the draft lottery would increase according to how poor their win-loss record was.
Today, this is the process utilized.
Before you criticize the process, keep in mind that, prior to the lottery system, there were complaints that teams such as the Houston Rockets were purposely losing games to secure a shot at the first overall pick. The lottery seemingly solved that dilemma.
It also defined Stern's legacy as much as any other course of action.
1. A Financial Mastermind
Although this is not necessarily a story, the progression of the NBA as a business is the most telling tale of David Stern's tenure as league commissioner. In what will be 30 years when he retires, Stern has done the unthinkable.
Kurt Badenhousen of Forbes.com has the breakdown.
[When Stern took over] the league’s 23 teams were collectively worth roughly $400 million.
Flash forward to today. NBA owners divvy up $930 million annually from TV contracts. The 2012 NBA Finals were broadcast in 215 countries. Attendance averaged 17,273 last season for all regular season games. We valued the average NBA team at $393 million in our last look at the business of the NBA. That average will certainly top $400 million in our next take, after the recent sales of two low-revenue franchises in the New Orleans Hornets for $338 million and Memphis Grizzlies for $350 million. The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement has made even small market franchises must-have assets. The collective worth of the NBA’s 30 teams is now more than $12 billion.
Let's put that in simpler terms.
In 1984, David Stern took over a league that had a combined worth of $400 million. 28 years later, the average NBA franchise is worth that amount individually.
Ever wonder who to turn to for business or financial advice? Now you know.
David Stern saved the NBA, created the global phenomenon it is today and perfected financial management. Fans may not like him for their own biased reasons, but without Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today.
David Stern is as great a legend as any player we've ever seen.
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