David Stern’s Most Unforgettable Moments as NBA Commissioner
When the great hoops histories are written, they will say this: On February 1, 2014, David Stern retired as commissioner of the National Basketball Association, exactly 30 years after he stepped into the role. Stern, arguably the most divisive and most entertaining commissioner in American professional sports, ends a professional relationship with the NBA that spans almost 50 years, going back to his initial role as outside counsel to the league in 1966. From there, Stern worked his way up the ladder to the General Council of the league in 1978, executive vice president of the NBA in 1980, and took over for Larry O’Brien (the same Larry O’Brien for whom the NBA Finals trophy is now named, thanks to Stern) in 1984.
Since 1984, as you may have suspected, basketball has exploded in popularity, riding the crest of a wave that began with the battles of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird, and crashed to shore with the arrival of Michael Jordan and everything that entailed. While people were certainly watching the NBA (and the American Basketball Association) before Stern’s tenure, the numbers doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and continue to escalate into the present day. How much of that is owed directly to Stern is up for debate, but the fact remains that he was there, he’s happy to take credit for it, and he’s happy to bask in the caricature of being a public figure.
Who else would’ve welcomed being booed at every single draft in recent memory, even when the boos turned to cheers at the conclusion of the first round of the 2013 draft? Who else would’ve embraced every opportunity to play the villain for fun while positioning himself as the savior of the NBA? Stern, alone among sports commissioners, is a character worthy of a television show or a novel, and as his career comes to a close, we’re taking a look at some of the most memorable moments from the Stern era of the league.