The 2012-2013 season of the National Basketball League (NBA) will mark the 28th year for Commissioner David Stern, who announced his retirement a week into the current season. He is set to retire in February of 2014, which will be thirty years to the date in which he started his tenure as commissioner.
As an avid sports follower and fan of the NBA, it is only right that I give homage to this Stern in honor of his services to the NBA prior to his retirement. Of course you may think that I have lost my mind, and yes, the announcement of his retirement has made me empathetic to the NBA’s future after a Stern tenure. I may not have agreed with most of his regulations during his tenure, however, the announcement of his retirement has made me reflect on the way that he has changed my perspective on the game of basketball in both good and bad ways.
As a fan of basketball since a young child, I have enjoyed watching the NBA through games, the drafts, and several season tickets to Atlanta Hawks games (don’t judge me, I didn’t know any better!). Stern to me has done an outstanding job in increasing the popularity of the NBA between the 90’s and to 2000s. I can attest to this accomplishment being that some of the game’s best players and biggest superstars were drafted during this period such as: Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’ Neal, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James.
My most memorable NBA draft was the draft of 2003 in which Anthony, James, and Wade entered into the NBA. I watched these players throughout their high school and collegiate careers and studied them knowing that they were destined to play in the NBA to bring in the tenacity in which they do when playing a game that I enjoy watching. I thank Stern for this.
Although, I must admit as a female sports fan, it was a “memorable” moment to see women be able to have a league of their own in 1997, when the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBA) was created. It gave me great pride to see women play on a “professional” spectrum and not just at the collegiate level. This made me love the game of basketball even more when I could see women like: Swin Cash, Lisa Leslie, and Cynthia Cooper. To me, this sparked a statement of female power, empowerment, and involvement. It showed that women too could be important sports figures in not only a professional manner, but a “man’s game”.
Although there were countless of historical moments in Stern’s tenure, he also had many moments in which he received much slack from fans.
In 2005, he announced a new dress code policy. This new policy enforced the way in which players dressed. Players were enforced to not wear articles such as: headphones, chains, and other unprofessional attire during NBA-related public appearances. This announcement made by Stern caused a short stint of frenzy amongst Stern and the players. I’m quite sure that fans remember the statement made by then NBA standout and now free-agent, Allen Iverson when he said, “They’re targeting guys who dress like me, guys who dress hip-hop…I think they went way overboard.”
At the time of the announcement, I felt not so happy by Stern’s statement and to this day I still do. It needed to be done. It’s great that he stood firm to his beliefs and looked out for the league while putting on his “legal” and “public relations” hat. I liked your thinking, Stern. The outcome of Stern’s statement may have caused friction between Stern and his players, but I think it has cleaned up the appearance and stereotypes of the league quite well.
During Stern’s tenure, he experienced four lockouts of the NBA throughout his career being 1995, 1996, 1998-1999 and the most recent the 2011 NBA lockout. The 2011 NBA lockout, to me was the most memorable of Stern’s fallout with NBA fans was during the lockout that made fans go berserk was the lockout of July 1, 2011. The lockout was an agreement between both owners and players, and only after 161-days of the lockout the NBA was back, and gave fans a spectacular Christmas Day season opener. I was upset, but as a Lakers fan, I was glad to see the Lakers back on the hard-court playing once again.
I understand that many of you may dislike Stern; you may call him a train-wreck, a fake, or just a horrible person, but alas, be glad that he was able to be the commissioner of the NBA for over 28 years. Imagine and think of what things would have been like if he were never commissioner? Would we have the NBA as what it is today? I can’t answer that question and neither can you. However, I know that there will probably not be another like him.
Thanks David Stern for helping to make the game that I know and love so progressive and historical during your 28 year tenure.