A different take on David Stern's legacy
I'll leave the legacy business for a blog post a decade or so from now when we've had some time to see what the league looks like under Adam Silver because, in reality, the legacy arguments are impossible to judge objectively on the very day that Silver takes over. Of course Magic, Bird, MJ, the Dream Team, Yao, Kobe, etc helped the game expand globally; would the NBA be as popular -- or perhaps even more popular -- with a different commissioner? How can anyone actually answer that?
Rather, I'd like to simply share some thoughts about David Stern. I feel that I have a somewhat unique perspective on the subject and I'm still quite split on how I feel about the guy.
Let me first admit that I have personally benefitted from having a (mostly) indirect relationship with David Stern. A close family member of mine has been friendly with David Stern since college. So I've heard stories about a young David Stern (from the stories I've heard, he was a nerd in college and mostly sat on the sidelines during intra-fraternity competitions -- good training for running a sports league, I guess) and I've gone to an All-Star weekend and many playoff games "on the house" thanks to this connection. I've spoken briefly to him a few times when we've been at the same game and on a trip to New York a few summers ago, I got a chance to sit with him in his office and talk at length.
Not surprisingly for a person of his stature, he is very impressive in person. That "shmuck" persona -- yeah, it's real. When you see him embracing the boo birds at the NBA draft, that's authentic Stern. He admitted to me and the family member I went with that he was a schmuck. But he was also genuinely interested in getting to know me and he was much more generous with his time than we expected. I was hoping to get 5 minutes. I left 45 minutes later with a bag of NBA gear, tickets to the next day's Yankees-Red Sox game, a picture of the two of us, and a great feeling about the whole experience.
I'm also a Kings fan and he did a lot to save my team. He gave Mayor Kevin Johnson a clear checklist for how to keep the team in Sacramento and worked very closely with Sacramento throughout the process.
But Seattle is my second home. It's where I went to college and many people in the Northwest -- including many of my friends -- resent Stern for not doing the same thing for the Sonics. For many in the Northwest, he's public enemy number two behind only Clay Bennett. I may not share that level of Stern hatred, but I certainly wish he'd done more to save the Sonics and I think he's one of the parties that deserve blame for their move to OKC.
Once again, both the haters and the supporters have valid points.