The Three Best and Worst Changes David Stern Has Made for the NBA
I've watched the NBA for about the last 23 or so years. I am a highlight junkie who loves the old school games and players. Guys like Isiah. Karl Malone...old school, hard-nosed veterans. The league has changed dramatically under the control of David Stern throughout the years. Mostly for the better.
From his stoppage of imminent brawls through his punishments, to him upholding all players to the same standard. People often criticize him for upholding the suspensions of Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudamire during the Phoenix-San Antonion series in the playoffs a few years ago. I respected him for standing his ground.
After all, I remember Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson getting suspended in a playoff game against the Heat. They took one step on the court. Amare and Diaw made it all the way to the scorers table. Why should they be different? Everyone, and I mean everyone should suffer the same consequences.
Stern's ear is also open to listen to his players. When he changed the regulation game ball, he was flexible enough to change it back when heard of its disapproval amongst his players.
So many changes have affected the league in a major way. The NBA is a financial juggernaut through products, media, endorsements, and charity. I had to list three negatives to even the list out, since there were a few changes I disliked. But with the exception of one, they've all been very miniscule.
BAD- Changing Round One from a five- to seven-game elimination
The caption above I put there to remind people of the 1993 Seattle Sonics, who were upset by Mutumbo's eighth-seeded Nuggets. I loved the five game, first round, because it gave the last seeded underdogs hope to pull off an upset. Under-estimation and cockiness could doom a first-seeded team. But a seven game series gives them the opportunity to fix things.
I love the college format of win or go home. I also love the idea of having to execute and adjust over a long series. However, if a top-seeded team can't dispose of a eighth-seeded team with ease, then they don't deserve to play for a title.
The extra two games is a handicap to keep that conference leader from getting embarrassed. Extra games for them to correct mistakes they shouldn't have been making to begin with. Many believe that Stern changed that because of Shaq and Kobe's Lakers. I'm one of those people.
He needs to change it back to the way it was. It'll give the upper-seeded team a sense of urgency. It'll give the lower seeds motivation to know there is a chance. Three wins as opposed to four. It also gives those lower seeds a chance to get exposure playing against established teams. Not too many upsets these days, and I think that's what made the game interesting...
Anybody could win, and any team could be beaten if they're unprepared.
GOOD- Dress Code
I remember back in the 90s, I saw an injured Derrick Coleman wearing a sweater instead of a suit. Back then, that was definitely a first. Back then, players were always suited up. Some classy like Jordan, even though there aren't too many games I saw him miss. Some flashy and flamboyant like Clyde Frazier.
As the years went on, players became more relaxed and comfortable. Guys with jeans. Then sneakers and boots.
I remember seeing Allen Iverson sitting on the bench wearing a Patrick Ewing throwback. I remember LeBron wearing a white tee and a Yankee cap. I remember Vince Carter wearing a chain that almost hit his knees. I'm thinking to myself, this is ridiculous.
Granted, I feel people should be able to dress as they please. However, when you are employed by someone, you adhere to their regulations. ESPECIALLY when they are getting paid as much as they are. The last thing I want to see after paying fifty dollars is seeing some guy making $20 million dressed like some rapper. Or like they're going to some club.
The old schoolers didn't have to be told that. It was a totally different outlook. These players are skilled professionals. Millionaires. Businessmen. They should dress like it. However, it's sad they have to be told so.
This particular one is sort of 50-50. The refs have been pretty good for the most part. I remember when Violet Palmer came into the league, being the first woman referee in league history. Now, she's a seasoned NBA veteran, garnering the respect of any other ref.
They miss calls, but they're human. I've refereed before, and sometimes you think, that was a foul, but it was too late to blow the whistle. It happens.
The refereeing is up here for two reasons. First, is the hand checking. Derek Harper is to thank for it. Stern wanted to tighten up on that, and it has backfired. Granted, some players are out of control with it. But, it's gotten so bad that players are whistled for incidental contact.
Secondly, of course, is the flopping. We've seen replays of guys getting whistled for offensive fouls who barely touched their defender. Guys running up underneath guys already in the air. When players flopped in the past, it was because they were exaggerating contact.
Nowadays, the contact is so light and over-exaggerated it's outrageous. Stern had to find a way to curtail guys pushing off and running defenders over, intentionally. Now, refs are blowing the whistle anytime a defender hits the floor. David Stern needs to find away to loosen the refs' whistles and find some sort of middle point.
GOOD- Age Limit
This was by far the best move he made. Very few athletes out of high school come out and are ready for the NBA lifestyle. Overnight millionaires.
I wrote a list of all the players who made the jump, and when I look at them today, for the most part they were the most successful. Look at some of the great ones. Kobe. LeBron. Jermaine O'Neal. Monta Ellis. McGrady. Tyson Chandler. Dwight Howard.
There are cases like Eddy Curry, Sebastian Telfair, and Kwame Brown, whose game and mental capacity weren't ready for the professional lifestyle. But with the exception of LeBron and Dwight, every single player up here took a few years to develop. A few years to get their game and mind right.
They could have done so in college.
Funnily enough, the majority of the marquee players in the league came straight to the league. After the work was put in, success was achieved. But those development years could have and should have been spent in college. Developing with their peers instead of with adult millionaire professionals.
Too many players who were dunkers with no shot, or dribblers with no shot came into the league. It had to be stopped. To think Greg Oden and Kevin Durant had to spend a year in college. It helped their game and mentality reach NBA levels. They were NBA ready. On a rookie level of course. They need the time to get their minds to catch up with their talent.
BAD- Shortening Three-Point Line
Here's another move to make the league more player and stat friendly. My problem is that old school didn't benefit for a shorter line. The shooters were really shooters. Recent years have seen more players who are high-percentage shooters behind the arc.
Granted, most of the premier shooters in the league have unlimited range, so an inch or so won't make a monumental difference. It would be as if they shortened the football field to ninety yards.
If players want their percentages to improve, go to the gym and work on your shot like any other ballplayer.
Three-point shooting makes the league interesting, and ultimately this change benefited the league. I just don't like it since it diminishes the great shooters of the past. Players who didn't have the luxury of a shortened line to make things easier for them.
As the years went by in the NBA, more and more foreign born players show up in the NBA. In the past, there were a few stars. The foreign player's game and mentality are totally different. While the American athlete usually could do one or two things well, the foreign player is way more versatile.
Through promotion and global scouting, Stern got the WORLD involved. Outside of North America. Now, I look at Dirk Nowitzki. The Pau Gasols. Tony Parker. Yao Ming. From Boston to Beijing.
The stereotype of foreign players being soft and not ready for NBA stardom has been shattered. Obliterated.
Foreign players have bought a new dimension to the NBA player. Being multifaceted. Big men being able to shoot. Shooters being able to pass. Being able to be role players, even when they're stars.
Our Olympic teams failures in recent years before this year awakened the American player. Argentina taught us there was no longer the dominance as in the past. The arrogance, was no longer justified...It showed that without hard work, talent meant nothing. Americans might be the most talented, but oftentimes they aren't the best players.
David Stern raised awareness of this great league that we as Americans are so privileged to follow. Guys like Nene in Brazil were getting ready to take their game to the highest level, even if it's in a different culture and atmosphere.
The promotion and marketing have been second to none. The NBA is a worldwide global giant that extends past athletics. The NBA has fans that don't even follow the game. Worldwide....great job David Stern.