David Stern 1942-2020
January 1, 2020 2:24 PM   Subscribe

David Stern, likely the most important sports businessman of all time, who turned the NBA into an international household name, has died. People, we've lost today a legend!

No David Stern? no Shotime, Air Jordan, no Yao Ming nor Dirk Nowitzki. maybe a pre-recorded broadcast of last week's game. when USSR is the most prominent powerhouse in the basketball world.
posted by avi111 (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 


Not trying to shit on a guy the day he died and there are a lot of way, WAY, worse sports execs, but he was a CEO. 99.9% of what’s good about sports comes from the people doing the sports, the best a commissioner can do is stay out of the way and a lot of times Stern got in the way instead. People close to him seem to like him so maybe he was a good dude. But on behalf of fans, if not players, please skip the hagiography.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:39 PM on January 1 [23 favorites]


🏀
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:44 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


"We've had to explain to our international audience that the boo is an American sign of respect."

He became commissioner in 1984, so Magic vs. Larry was already a big thing and the league was on the way up, but he'd been the league general counsel since 1978. He also worked on the NBA-ABA merger and free agency.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:44 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


Thriving on good debate in the boardroom and good games in the arena, Stern would say one of his greatest achievements was guiding a league of mostly black players that was plagued by drug problems in the 1970s to popularity with mainstream America.

He had a hand in nearly every initiative to do that, from the drug testing program, to the implementation of the salary cap, to the creation of a dress code


See like. Right here. Even in the obituary. It’s very unlikely that David Stern is racist. But this narrative about how he “saved” basketball from thuggery is a racist lie. If we don’t bring it up, it’ll just go down in the history books like a fact.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:49 PM on January 1 [29 favorites]


Ringer obituary (Dan Devine)
Grantland career retrospective upon his retirement in 2014 (Charles Pierce)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:04 PM on January 1 [5 favorites]


He let the OKC crooks steal the Sonics. So...

No dot from me, ever.
posted by Windopaene at 3:19 PM on January 1 [7 favorites]


Most important of all time? Does the ghost of Pete Rozelle get a say here?
posted by hwestiii at 4:04 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Yes, what he let happen to Seatle was a crime, although largely driven by greedy owners. He somewhat made up for it be helping keep the Kings in Sacramento, standing up to the spoiled brat Maloufs.
I will offer my ..
posted by CostcoCultist at 5:09 PM on January 1


And since Seattle was the likely destination for the Kings...

Still no dot
posted by Windopaene at 6:04 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]


Most important of all time? Does the ghost of Pete Rozelle get a say here?

Only if it fits on a Jim McMahon headband.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:06 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]


See like. Right here. Even in the obituary. It’s very unlikely that David Stern is racist. But this narrative about how he “saved” basketball from thuggery is a racist lie. If we don’t bring it up, it’ll just go down in the history books like a fact.

Some people would frame it that way, sure. And it's hard to know how things would have shaken out in terms of popularity had he not done what he did. To me it was a smart business and marketing move in an era where white America was in a full blown cultural panic over the drug war, gang culture, and the popular culture that came out of it. While the current day can feel unhinged and dangerous because our bedrock institutions are being quickly upended, the level of fear and pearl clutching at the time utilizing the perspective of today feels comically child-like and similarly unhinged in its disconnection from reality (TV propaganda operating on an isolated white middle class goes all the way back, it didn't start with fox news). And I say this as someone whose political take on the same is extremely negative.

So sure, while white America is still a very racist place, there is no business need for similar PR moves today. With how culturally polarized this country has become, the NBA has found itself in a place where it can market itself with a vaguely progressive stance, while the NFL (and to a much lesser extent MLB) can and do play to nationalism and jingoism. White people who hate black culture are not a target demographic; the rest of white america is culturally knowledgeable and aware in a way that their parent's generation wasn't 30 years before. There's no perception or relatability gap to be broken through.
posted by MillMan at 9:35 PM on January 1


I don't see actual NBA players lining up to piss on his grave. These guys are not just offering token condolences.
posted by pracowity at 12:22 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


@Potomac Avenue, I think it's true that labor is generally underappreciated and even so in the rarefied labor pool of professional sports.

But!, leadership matters.

It's may be more obvious in politics, but it's true everywhere. I think that's what's going on with egs like those linked by pracowity. Stern also helped oversee changes that empowered players both in terms of salaries and mobility as well as allowing their celebrity within the sport to be more useful as a platform for social change.

He's got plenty of skeletons too, but I can see why he's remembered fondly.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:36 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


"but he was a CEO. 99.9% of what’s good about sports comes from the people doing the sports"

You won't find anyone who agrees with the second half of that more than me, but David Stern is unquestionably one of the most impactful people in sports in the last 100 years. I'm not making any value judgments here, good or bad, but the NBA pre-David Stern is not anything like the NBA post-David Stern.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:00 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]




Surprised at the number of churlish comments here. The NBA remains imperfect and certainly Stern was imperfect, but the late commissioner had an enormous, largely positive impact on the league as well as on the larger society of which it is an influential part.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:20 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I think Henry Abbott's remembrance is the definitive statement on the man.
posted by Kwine at 8:44 AM on January 3 [6 favorites]


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