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The combative, sharp, accusatory, cranky, innovative, honest David Stern, 1942-2019


From the moment David Stern took over as NBA commissioner, in 1984, to the day he retired in 2014, his two goals were to grow the game of basketball into a world-wide entity and to make a shit load of money.

Based on the Daryl Morey tweet that erupted a nation of 1.4 billion and caused LeBron James to make the wildest swing and miss of his career in the name of keeping a massive international fan base happy, Stern did a pretty good job.

He:  

  • Somehow managed to look exactly the same throughout his entire career; he looked 60 when he 30

  • Oversaw expansion from 23 to 30 teams, which is celebrated as a win for league revenue but sometimes sucks for the fans, who are forced to watch matchups like Memphis-Charlotte in mid-March 

  • Helped create the WNBA

  • Turned the G-League into the viable and practical minor league it is today

  • Infuriated the Lakers (extra points for that) for vetoing a Chris Paul trade in 2011, while the league was temporarily running the Hornets 

  • Was accused of pandering to white people in the age of hip hop and Allen Iverson with a dress code for players implemented in 2005, which resonated so much he heard his own name in a Nas song (Or David Stern with his NBA fashion issues)

  • He got reallllllly angry at Jim Rome for asking if the lottery was rigged

  • He wanted everyone to know he stepped down as commissioner, didn’t retire ("He hates when people say that," Adam Silver told Sports Illustrated.)

He died yesterday at the too-young age of 77. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage three weeks ago. We all knew that, but it was hard to gage just how serious it was.

What sticks with us -- and it is perhaps not the most suitable anecdote for a man of such importance -- is the slightly unhinged interview he gave to Sports Illustrated at the beginning of the 2018 season, where he railed against any wrongdoing in the Chris Paul veto saga, and made a healthy prediction:

“Dell Demps is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis."

Of course, the Pelicans were up in arms, releasing a statement that backed Dell Demps with “the utmost confidence,” which they’ve since deleted.

Anyways, 14 months later, Demps is out of a job and Anthony Davis is thriving in Los Angeles.

David Stern: Usually kind of an asshole. Usually right.

[READ: David Stern was a complete force of nature]

[LISTEN: David Stern spoke with Bob Ryan on the Bob Ryan Podcast in 2017]

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