Stern screamed and cursed and pounded boardroom tables, treating the commissioner’s seat like an emperor’s throne. It’s hard to imagine Stern at rest, but he has died at 77. The former commissioner suffered a brain hemorrhage on Dec. 12 and was in critical condition until his death on New Year’s Day. For most of his life, Stern kept coming and coming and coming. Privately, owners talked tough about how Stern worked for them. In his presence, many of them cowered.
At once, owners, management and players were grateful to Stern for franchise valuations and salaries growing exponentially — and fearful that failing to submit to his will could result in legitimate retribution, including unfavorable referee assignments in the playoffs.