HoopsHype David Stern rumors

February 2, 2014 Updates

Mark Cuban on the legacy of David Stern: "He took the NBA from a sport that wasn't on television for the Finals game to making it the second most popular sport in the world. You couldn't ask for a better legacy. Now, any NBA player that goes to China is a superstar, even if they've only played one minute in their entire career. That was just inconceivable 20 years ago, 25 years ago. He deserves 100 percent of the credit for that. Dallas Morning News

"I think he understood that soccer—all you need is a ball, and with basketball, a ball and a hoop. It’s an inexpensive game that anyone can play around the world, it’s easy to understand, and that with a little bit of momentum and visibility for the players, you could turn it global. And that, plus the fact that our players, like in soccer, are very identifiable. You could be sitting next to Richard Sherman, and you wouldn’t know how he is. You could look at the 10th guy on the Knicks bench, and you’ll know exactly who that is … And so I think he recognized that our players are very identifiable, and he could leverage that from a marketing perspective.” Dallas Morning News

February 1, 2014 Updates

Cleaning out his office in December, David Stern found a photo from his first day as commissioner of the National Basketball Association in 1984. Stern, then 41, had a mustache, a full head of dark hair, and eyeglasses as big as windshields. In the photo he rests his right hand on a copy of the Sporting News Official NBA Guide for the season. His left is raised to take an oath. Russ Granik, a league lawyer who would become Stern’s deputy, holds the book. Seven other guys in suits stand by grinning. “I swore to uphold the NBA constitution, bylaws, and all that’s holy,” Stern recalls. On Feb. 1, 30 years to the day later, Stern will retire as commissioner. Adam Silver, who joined the NBA in 1992 as Stern’s special assistant and has been deputy commissioner since 2006, will take over the top job. There will be no mock oaths, no ceremony of any kind. “It isn’t like I have a key to hand [over] or a staff or a crest of arms,” says Stern, sitting next to Silver in the commissioner’s meeting room at the NBA’s headquarters in New York in December. For Silver, it will be another working Saturday. “It feels seamless,” he says. “I feel I’m as prepared as I’ll ever be.” BusinessWeek.com

Bob Iger, the CEO and chairman of Walt Disney (DIS), knows about following in the footsteps of a legend (he took over from Michael Eisner in 2005) and the perils of handing off to the next generation (he’s stepping down in 2016). Iger has been counseling Silver while maintaining close ties to Stern. “David deserves a lot of credit for not only developing Adam but for supporting him,” he says. “That shouldn’t be taken lightly. Adam’s got all the talent in the world and deserved to get the job. But David recognizing that was of real significance.” BusinessWeek.com

As commissioner, Stern lived up to his title. He was the league’s chief cop, stamping out behavior that could make sponsors skittish. He was swift with suspensions when a player refused to stand during the national anthem, went into the stands to fight a fan, or choked his coach. (He also hit Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban with almost $2 million in fines over 13 years, mostly for criticizing referees.) “He was very effective at being the sheriff,” says Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves and chairman of the NBA board of governors. BusinessWeek.com

“David was very much the protector of that brand and the integrity of the league,” says Silver. “I think the job has very much evolved over the years to more closely align to a CEO position than just the cop-on-the-beat, commissioner notion.” The NBA now employs 1,100 people in 15 offices in a dozen countries. Along with basketball operations, Silver will oversee marketing, finance, legal, security, and merchandising departments, among others. He’ll answer to billionaire owners who run software companies and venture capital firms and manage relationships with Adidas (ADS:GR), Samsung Electronics, SAP (SAP), and ESPN. BusinessWeek.com

“Over the last 22 years, there’s no one on the planet I’ve talked to more than I have David,” Silver says. “For years and years, I traveled everywhere David went. I even opened his mail when I first started working here.” After a year, Silver became NBA chief of staff. Two years later he moved to the league’s entertainment division, which manages its largest revenue source: television rights. (One of his first tasks as commissioner will be negotiations for new national deals. The NBA’s $930 million-per-year contracts with ESPN and Turner Sports (TWX) expire in 2016.) He went on to run the entertainment division for eight years. When Granik stepped down in 2006 after a 22-year run as deputy commissioner, Silver took the No. 2 post. Granik, six years younger than Stern, was seen as too close in age to succeed him. “Had the timing been different, [he] would have become a great commissioner in his own right,” says Silver. BusinessWeek.com

Silver says he’ll be calling Stern for advice. “I can’t imagine a scenario in which we won’t be talking on a regular basis,” he says. “It would be foolhardy for me not to be constantly checking in with David.” He’s not concerned about any appearance that Stern is still pulling the strings. Neither is Gilbert: “David will give good, honest, impartial advice, so I don’t think that can hurt,” he says. “Adam’s also made it known to me and others that, as much as he respects David and the way he ran things, he is going to be his own man and there is going to be a different style.” BusinessWeek.com

One of Stern's most enduring memories, however will be of the league's decision to hold the 2008 game here, one made in the months after Katrina when the city's rebirth was far from assured. "You know, this is a little screwy, but I wish I understood earlier what the power of sports was, to change lives, to call people's attentions to important issues and the like," Stern said. "We finally hit our stride on that up to, and especially, in 2008 in New Orleans when our day of service hooked in everyone from players to sponsors, to licensees, to guests. "And to see the impact that we could have in a city that was reeling, having scheduled the first regular-season games back in New Orleans, having scheduled the All-Star Game. But it gives us all great pleasure, and I know Adam joins me in that, in what part sports can play in bringing your great city back. "It was something that we all felt so good about, that it was sort of the proof of our confidence that New Orleans would come back from Katrina and needed the help we thought we could provide in a limited way." New Orleans Times-Picayune

In the first sign of a major change in the NBA landscape, new basketballs bearing the insignia of Adam Silver will debut for Saturday’s games. Commissioner David Stern serves his final day Friday in the league’s New York offices, retiring after 30 years, before Silver takes over. According to NBA spokesman Tim Frank, teams were given the Silver-inscribed balls — fresh off the factory line – two months ago “to break in.” Teams have practiced with the new balls, but not until tomorrow — when they host the Heat on the eve of the Super Bowl — will the Knicks use them in a game. New York Post

January 31, 2014 Updates

“I think the TV revenues are going to grow dramatically in the next agreement,” Falk said. “And it's so damaging to the business of the NBA to shut it down. Personally, I think it was irresponsible for Billy [Hunter] to have allowed it to be shut down twice. The players lost $1.25 billion that they'll never make up and they got nothing for it. And why would the owners shut it down? To get 5 percent more? The potential for where the league should be at the end of the current agreement is so high -- if it's done properly -- that to be greedy to try to steal a few percent is foolish.” CBSSports.com

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