Russ Granik Rumors
“I’m on vacation with Earvin, we’re in Hawaii, the results come in and he’s leading,” Rosen said. “So I speak with Russ Granik. Russ says, ‘Well, David’s going to let him play, but he’s not going to let him start.’ I say, ‘Hey, Russ, I’m telling you this – if David doesn’t let him start, he ain’t playing.’ Earvin was like, ‘Hell no, I want to start.’ To be true, David had a lot to deal with. There (were) players who were uncomfortable playing against him. … And I can say this, you know, what is it, 30 years since then – they weren’t wrong. It’s unfair. Because, you know what? You didn’t know much about it. It’s a much different disease now. But it was still hurtful. And Stern called me, he called with the old, ‘you m———–.’ He m———– me. It was fine.” But, eventually, Stern relented. Not only would the NBA honor the final fan vote – Johnson’s 658,211 votes were second only to Drexler’s 759,550 among Western Conference guards – it enthusiastically backed Johnson’s appearance in the All-Star Game.
The National Basketball Association had virtually no relationship with FIBA when Mr. Stankovic requested a meeting with the N.B.A.’s commissioner at the time, David Stern, in the mid-1980s, during the latter years of the Cold War. “His goal was very much to unify the world of basketball,” Russ Granik, a former N.B.A. deputy commissioner, said of Mr. Stankovic in a phone interview.
Mr. Stankovic told N.B.A. officials about his vision of having the best players in the world participate in major FIBA events, Mr. Granik said. “It wasn’t ready to happen yet,” he said, “but he wanted to start working toward that.” He added, “We were kind of surprised by all this, coming from him, because we’d always been told that they don’t want N.B.A. players in their events — they want to keep their world separate.”
David Stern was having a quiet evening at home, his sweet tooth calling him into the kitchen to get his second dessert for the night, when he saw something that nearly made the then-NBA commissioner drop his plate. The wildest scene the league had ever seen — beer coming from the stands, players decking fans and pure bedlam ensuing all over the Palace of Auburn Hills — was being broadcast live on national TV, to his dismay. Stern scurried over to his phone and called deputy commissioner Russ Granik. “I said, ‘Holy Moses, Russ.’ I probably was a little more colorful than that,” Stern said in a recent telephone interview with The Athletic, “but I said, ‘Turn your TV on, you’re not going to believe what’s unfolding here.’”
What pride do you take in helping open the door to the NBA in Toronto? Russ Granik: There’s no question that I do feel some special connection to the Raptors, because of how involved I was. … I would say we were very fortunate with a series of just really good people we dealt with in Toronto. I still remain occasionally in touch with John Bitove. And Larry Tanenbaum is one of the finest gentlemen I dealt with in my years at the NBA. I think that’s a big part of why the team’s been successful. It is pretty rewarding to see what they’re accomplishing, and have accomplished.
There has been some discussion this spring about whether basketball might one day overtake hockey as the primary sport in Toronto: I’d love to know your thoughts on that. Russ Granik: (laughs) That’s too big a question for me. You’d have to ask Adam Silver that one. And I’m not sure he’d want to offer an opinion, either. I think we always did — and I’m sure in the NBA, they still do — respect hockey’s place in the social structure in Canada. … I think the NBA can thrive whether it can someday reach that zenith or not in Canada.