David Stern Rumors
Kareem Maddox: I would say David Stern was responsible for kind of polishing the NBA product and trying to take it to the global audience. So an example is he was the one who, I believe, instituted a dress code, so when players arrived to games, they had to wear a suit and tie and look like they were going to a business meeting, but that was to, quote unquote, clean up the image. So he was involved in spreading it as far as he could.
Matt Brennan: So credit to David Stern and the Dream Team for this ’90s heyday of the league. But I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up another factor which is very dear to my heart and played a key role in taking the league to the next level in the 1990s, and that’s television. Don’t get me wrong. Lakers announcer Chick Hearn left us with some terms that are still pretty important if you’ve ever listened to an NBA broadcast, like “slam dunk,” “air ball.” “This game is in the refrigerator,” not as much.
Stern — who understood the importance of promoting the NBA to the world by playing exhibition games in Europe, getting games on television in China and spreading Basketball Without Borders programs all over the world — made Mutombo the NBA’s first global ambassador in 2009. “I believed Stern back then because he had the capacity and the knowledge to make things happen,” Mutombo said of the former commissioner, who died in 2020. “He was a very smart man who wanted to rule the continent. I’m so happy that our commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum [are] following [in Stern’s] footsteps very well. They are committed to the promise David made to see the continent shine.”
It’s spring 1983, and the New York attorney representing the players union with NBPA executive director Larry Fleisher and union president Bob Lanier were finalizing the core issue of the NBA collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The owners wanted to create a salary cap, seeking to control spending and level the playing field in a league where a handful of teams were hemorrhaging money. “After much gnashing of teeth, we had finally agreed to some form of a salary cap, and that was the biggest issue we were negotiating back in that period of ’82 and ’83,” Jim Quinn told The Athletic. “Just as we got towards the end, Alan Cohen, who was part of the group buying the Celtics, said, ‘I’m not going to agree to the deal unless I can be assured that under any circumstances, I can keep Larry Bird.’”
The first player to ink a deal with the Celtics using Bird rights was the man starting next to the namesake, NBA Finals MVP Cedric Maxwell. The two sides were working out a deal that would pay him $800,000 a year, which would be a significant chunk of the $3.6 million salary cap right as they were giving All-Star sixth man Kevin McHale $1 million. “I looked it up, and I was like, ‘There I am! The 99th highest-paid athlete in the world,’” Maxwell told The Athletic. “My attorney told me that day they gave Kevin McHale a million dollars a year, so we’re gonna have to hold out for that extra $200,000.
Time will tell if Gentry is still the head coach of the Kings by the time he turns 68 on Nov. 5, 2022. Regardless of whether the Shelby, North Carolina, native is with Sacramento or elsewhere, he will always be appreciative of his time in the NBA that began in 1989 as an assistant coach under Larry Brown with the San Antonio Spurs. “Look at how the league in general has grown and what [former NBA commissioner] David Stern did to this league and how he made it so globally,” Gentry said. “I remember taking a trip to Africa [with] me, Wes Unseld and Alex English, and David Stern went. And we went to South Africa. We had dinner with Nelson Mandela. We did things like that that you could only dream of as a kid from Shelby, North Carolina.