Praise has rained down on David Stern ever since the longtime NBA commissioner announced he would pass the torch to deputy commissioner Adam Silver in early 2014. Have no fear, however, the league will continue to prosper without him.
Most of the positive attention Stern has received is due to the NBA's improved financial situation. Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes reports he brought $12 billion worth of value to the league's teams since taking control nearly 30 years ago.
While nobody can deny that it's an impressive number, to think he was the main driving force behind the rise to prominence isn't fair to the players who put the league on their back. Without superstars, from Michael Jordan to LeBron James, the NBA doesn't soar.
Stern has taken advantage of those opportunities to score major television contracts and other lucrative deals, but that's his job. If he didn't do those things, he probably would have been gone a long time ago.
It's the players who will ensure the league continues to grow long after Stern calls it quits. They are the ones who get fans to attend games, buy merchandise and watch on television. Fans certainly aren't doing it because they love Stern.
Actually, it's the complete opposite. Every time Stern comes out to announce picks on draft night, a chorus of boos greet him, and oddly, he seems to enjoy it.
The NBA is in great hands. From veterans like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, who have helped lead the charge for more than a decade, to younger superstars like James and Kevin Durant, the league certainly has no shortage of reasons to be thankful.
With players such as James and Durant leading the way, the NBA should have no trouble making a major impact not only nationally, but globally.
It doesn't matter if Stern, Silver or somebody else is in charge. The league is dependent on how many stars it has and how marketable they are to a wide audience, not who the commissioner is.
Stern deserves some credit, there's no doubt about that. He has done his part to help the sport grow and should be applauded for that effort when he walks out the door in the middle of next season. But it's also important not to go overboard with the kudos.
A commissioner should be like a referee. The less you notice him, the better. It usually means he's doing a good job. Stern hasn't always succeeded in that regard, which is the main reason he hears those boos at the draft.
All told, the transition from Stern to Silver should be seamless, and the league will keep on moving forward without missing a beat.