David Stern’s reign as NBA commissioner will end on Feb. 1, 2014, when he retires from the position, but his name is already being replaced on regulation basketballs by his heir-apparent Adam Silver's signature.
The subtle change was first noted by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
After 30 years of service to the league, Stern announced at a press conference on Oct. 25 he would be stepping down. The passing of the torch to his deputy commissioner Silver has been a welcomed change for most teams and players, but there was always going to be one major holdup.
Each team receives balls from the league at the beginning of the year for use during the season. Instead of reflecting Silver’s position as the league’s most powerful man, the basketballs were all expected to adorn Stern’s signature for a portion of the 2014-15 season.
It takes months of practicing and playing with an authentic leather basketball for it to be worthy of using during a professional game, according to a report from Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News. The original plan was to start putting Silver’s signature on the regulation balls after Stern leaves office and break the new Silver-signed basketballs in as next season progresses.
With teams receiving the newly signed balls now, they will spend the next several months using them in practice before they officially debut to the world when Stern walks away in February.
Ball-maker Spalding and the league initially announced in October that the shift would be implemented midseason in order to kick off Silver’s reign as commissioner appropriately, per Soshnick. When Stern took over for former NBA commissioner Larry O’Brien in 1984, the league spent Stern’s first season with O’Brien’s name on the balls.
Spalding and the NBA simply don’t want to start off Silver’s tenure on the wrong foot.
The deputy commissioner is widely regarded as the ideal successor, and Stern told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today about his right-hand man’s biggest strengths:
Adam has the respect of the owners and the players, he has expertise in the very important areas of social media, international and television, all of which report to him. That focus has only been intensified over the past several years, while at the same time his portfolio has been broadened to include collective bargaining and other matters as well.
It will be interesting to see what changes Silver makes as the new commissioner for the NBA—he is already considering the idea of eliminating divisions, per Zillgitt—but the subtle shift to a new regime has already begun with the release of the Silver-edition basketballs.