Nothin' but Net: Goodbye, Commissioner Stern

Philadelphia, PA ( - On Saturday, with less fanfare than a sale at your local car dealership, David Stern will resign as commissioner of the NBA, handing over the reins to Adam Silver.

There will be no pomp, no circumstance, just a documentary on NBA TV Friday night about Stern's 30 years of service.

No ceremonies now, nor during All-Star weekend in two weeks.

"Nothing public," Tim Frank, the NBA's senior vice president for basketball communications, said in an email.

Sort of makes the selection of a Pope seem excessive, right?

So that is how Stern will leave. He is the longest-reigning commissioner of a U.S. sports league and it won't hamper people's cartoon watching on Saturday morning.

Stern's legacy is overwhelmingly positive.

When he took the job in 1984, he propelled the sport to heights that were previously unimaginable. It helped having the greatest athlete of all-time in Michael Jordan, a charismatic wizard named Magic and a country hillbilly named Bird, but Stern's stewardship was at the center of it all.

Salaries are astronomically higher than ever. Owners' checking accounts are incomprehensible for average civilians to understand and the league could easily have a money room at headquarters to just swim around in like Scrooge McDuck.

Stern's biggest achievement might be the globalization of the sport. This season, regular-season games were contested in London and the league even tried one in Mexico City until smoke overwhelmed the arena.

Foreign players make up a huge portion of NBA rosters and even two All-Stars are from places outside the United States.

Stern was a principal architect in getting professionals into the 1992 Olympics. Ever heard of the Dream Team, the real one? Stern had a huge part in that.

Stern weeded drugs out of the league (pun intended), not just steroids and HGH (which the league still doesn't have a fool-proof plan to combat), but the Scarface stuff.

He implemented a dress code for players that was originally panned and decried as possibly racist. Now, every player is dressed very sporty when not in uniform and no one complains about it.

Stern oversaw the explosion of a sport. He had assistance, sure. The product is what sells and the players participating in said product most specifically. But without true leadership, the NBA wouldn't be where it is now, which is a billion-dollar, international force.

You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Same is true for Stern. In 30 years, there were certainly some warts.

There were four work-stoppages on his watch and while the sport endured, Stern took some criticism for the last one, especially from the players.

The Brawl at The Palace was a black eye for the league, but Stern acted swiftly and sternly (pun intended, again, can't control myself). Of the 156 games Stern suspended all parties involved, only 10 were overturned on appeal by a federal arbitrator.

The micro-fiber ball is a personal favorite, but once again, Stern acknowledged a mistake and the leather ball was back three months into the doomed experiment.

There's always the crazy conspiracy theory that Stern rigged the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery so the New York Knicks got the No. 1 pick. That one has always scared me to my core, not that such a thing could have happened, but that people believe it could have.

Stern vetoed a three-team deal when the league owned the New Orleans franchise that would've sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a fair deal and didn't need intervention.

The true tarnish on Stern's legacy is the Tim Donaghy affair. No matter how often Stern uttered the words "rouge official," a cheating scandal among the sacred arbitrators of the game was a disaster. It called into question everything Donaghy stained with his touch.

But, Stern guided the NBA through it all.

If you balance 30 years, Stern was an incredibly gifted leader. He was extremely tough, but fair in handing down discipline, and there are several men with extremely large houses that have Stern to thank, at least in part.

It's impossible to rank commissioners among the various sports. Leagues are too different and the issues facing the men in charge vary.

Stern is the best commissioner in the history of the NBA. There's no question about that. Is he better than Pete Rozelle in the NFL? Who knows, but Stern will be missed.

Is it too late for something big to celebrate him?


- Didn't get my knickers in a twist about the All-Star reserves. I had DeMarcus Cousins in over Dirk Nowitzki on the West, but it's not something I'd argue about. Lance Stephenson should've made the East team ahead of Joe Johnson. I don't understand that one, but again, I wouldn't open a federal investigation about it.

- The only two players in the NBA averaging seven rebounds and five assists this season are Kevin Durant and Stephenson. One is cruising toward the MVP, the other can't make the All-Star team in the pathetic Eastern Conference.

- I'm an advocate of the old system that features a center getting voted in, both as a starter and reserves. The Eastern Conference features three centers among reserves and it's still not a valid position worthy of starting status?

- Kyrie Irving can want out of Cleveland all he wants, it isn't happening. Irving isn't the problem. Dion Waiters is part of it. Mike Brown is not a great fit for this young team, although discipline and accountability should be a priority for this immature unit.

- With Kobe Bryant not playing in the NBA All-Star Game, I'd expect Anthony Davis gets named as his replacement. The game is in New Orleans, he's having a big season, so it all works.

- Weird how J.R. Smith's production has improved and the New York Knicks go back to the small lineup that was successful last season, and they win.

- Movie moment - "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" was poorly named.

- TV moment - I've never been a big fan of Jimmy Fallon. I felt he went to the school of Trying Too Hard, but his two-hour "best of" special was solid. He gets celebrities to do funny things. That's an immeasurable quality and a good one to have.