David Stern Leaves a Mixed Legacy

NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that he will be retiring after leading the NBA for 30 years.  He will step down during the 2013-2014 season.  The league will be in the hands of deputy commish Adam Silver.

I must say news of Stern’s retirement came not a moment too soon.

Hell, I’d argue that he should have quit after the last lockout.  After all, Stern presided over not one, but TWO lockouts.  He tried twice to emasculate players during both lockouts, only to fail miserably during the second lockout.

The lockouts were not the only area where Stern failed.  He could not bridge the gap between the high-revenue and low-revenue franchises.  He failed in his marketing strategy after Michael Jordan’s second retirement, focusing on stars instead of teams as he did in the 80s and 90s.  His biggest failure came in allowing his some (not all) of his players to behave as thugs, thus alienating the paying customers.

And if all of that weren’t bad enough, Stern also came across as a bully when interacting with members of the sports media.  Just ask Jim Rome how big of a bully Stern can be.

And of course there is that stupid age-limit rule…

Having said all of that, Stern had done a lot of good for the NBA.  First of all, the NBA experienced a renaissance during the 80s.  While fan interest may had a lot to do with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird winning championships, Stern’s marketing genius and leadership was the driving force behind the league’s resurgence.

Before Stern’s time as commissioner, the NBA Finals was on tape delay.  Could you imagine watching the Super Bowl or World Series on tape delay?  I thought not.  That was how bad the NBA was before Stern took over in February 1, 1984.

The league’s popularity peaked in the 90s as Jordan’s Chicago Bulls won six championships.  The league expanded into Canada, the Vancouver experience notwithstanding.  Stern also used that popularity to help the NBA become a global brand, generating interest in China and much of Europe.

In spite of the last lockout, the NBA had arguably its most exciting season in recent memory.  If you don’t believe me, check the ratings of last season’s conference finals and NBA Finals.

And though at times he did rule with an iron fist to point of being a bully, Stern did a damn good job in policing his players – notably after the “Malice in the Palace” during the 2004-2005 season that sunk the Indiana Pacers’ season.

So despite all the bad that Stern brought to the league, the NBA should be forever grateful for Stern’s leadership during his tenure as commissioner.  I just wish that Stern could have gone out on a higher note.

Maybe he will by 2014?

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