Is David Stern the greatest sports commissioner ever or the greatest person ever?
That seems to be the debate among the national commentators now that Stern has announced that he is going to retire as NBA commissioner in February of 2014.
I agree that Stern has been a great commissioner and that the league has seen enormous growth under his leadership. I also believe, though, that we need to slow down on the excessive praise before Stern accidentally gets elected president, pope or even your next American Idol.
First of all, people need to stop talking like he’s gone. He didn’t die, and he’s going to be the commissioner for another 15 months. Nothing changed, except that we know he has turned in his 15-month notice.
I don’t know why he felt the need to provide his employers with so much notice (especially when they already know who will take over next), except for maybe it was a way to steal media attention away from baseball during its World Series and football in the middle of its season. The NBA has been great at dominating the sports headlines during its off-season in recent years, and Stern has certainly contributed to that.
He’s a smart guy, and the league has seen amazing growth under his leadership. Since Stern took over as commissioner in 1984, the league has added seven franchises, become much more popular and increased its revenue 30-fold.
Most importantly, the league also eliminated those terrible short, shorts that players wore before Stern took over as commissioner.
He definitely contributed to the astounding success and growth of the NBA, but surely it all can’t be attributed to him.
Just by the fact that he was in charge for a long time means that big changes would have occurred, no matter who the commissioner was.
Don Nelson has more NBA coaching victories than any other coach, but does that make him the best coach ever? No, it shows he was a good coach and he held the job for a long time.
Also, the NBA’s revenue should have increased greatly since 1984, and the league should have added teams. The same thing happened in most other leagues since 1984.
If you think about it, 1984 is a long time ago, and the world has changed a lot since then. It just makes sense the NBA would see great changes during that time, too. When Stern took over as commissioner, Lebron James hadn’t been born yet (although that was around the time his ultrasound was on the cover of Sports Illustrated), Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet and Air Jordans hadn’t been sold for outrageous prices yet.
If someone else had taken over in 1984, maybe that commissioner would not have been so smart about going global and expanding the NBA’s presence around the world. And maybe another commissioner wouldn’t have been so smart about marketing the individual stars in the league.
But then again, maybe another commissioner would have been more prepared for how Michael Jordan’s retirement would impact the league, and would have set things up better so that interest wouldn’t have decreased after the retirement, or I should say, retirements. And maybe another commissioner would have capitalized more on the growth of the league in the 1990s so that it would be challenging the NFL today as the most popular league.
The point is, no matter how great all of the pundits tell us Stern was (or more accurately, is) as commissioner, we can’t know from the outside exactly how he ranks as a commissioner.
All we can know for sure is that we should thank Stern for leading the league for so long, for helping the game grow and improve, and for having the foresight and vision to allow the players to wear longer shorts.