For a number of Lakers fans, David Stern will forever be Public Enemy No. 1 for his infamous veto of the Chris Paul trade in 2011. That trade would have brought the star point guard in purple and gold. The move had a ripple effect throughout the entire NBA and changed the fortunes of a number of franchises.
But if that is the one thing we remember from Commissioner Stern after 30 years at the helm, we are extremely short-sighted. Stern will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest commissioners in all of sports, and the things he has done in his time as commissioner have helped grow the game astronomically.
Stern is responsible for a number of changes that have benefitted the NBA. Arguably his biggest contribution was his effort to grow the game internationally. There is no sport in America that has the presence overseas that basketball has and that is due, in large part, to Stern’s vision.
Beginning with the popularity of guys like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, Stern would begin marketing in different countries. Right now, the NBA is televised in 215 countries and 47 languages in addition to having offices in 14 global markets. The NBA, as a whole, is bringing in 30 times the revenue that it was making when Stern first became commissioner.
The NBA added seven franchises during his tenure, and created both the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the National Basketball Association Developmental League (NBADL). Even rulings that many believed would be controversial, such as his dress code implementation in 2005, turned out to be a massive success that the players have fun with now.
Stern also instituted a drug policy and began suspending and banning players from the league in 1986, during a time when cocaine use was rampant in America.
Stern was far from perfect. When you are the commissioner for 30 years, there are bound to be a number of issues and controversies under your watch. But when you look at the big picture, it is undeniable that Stern is responsible for far too many positive things, to harp on the negative.
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