Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Tag Archives: David Stern

Trust, Believability, Integrity and Mysterious Feuds

When I found out about David Stern’s 2014 retirement date, I didn’t think too deeply about the practical implications of his departure, but my first thoughts went to the media’s reaction, Twitter nerds going bananas, what the response would be … I guess that’s more a function of my personal participation in the game so it makes sense that’s where my thoughts went.

In the midst of Thursday night’s NBA TV coverage and reading through Twitter, I came across a few things: First, David Stern and Adam Silver both have huge ears with floppy lobes that look like they wore ear spacers once or like something a cartoonist would draw. Second: Despite having completely different physical characteristics, Stern and Silver look alike—similar facial expressions, smirks, not smiles, wet eyes, big ears. Third: Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski took Stern to the woodshed as he’s done so many times before.

This latest shot started out: “The biggest ego in the history of the sport, the emperor of the NBA …” Even a half-assed perusal of Wojnarowski’s 1,095 stories on Yahoo will reveal a small mountain of shells from the shots Woj has taken at Stern over the years. Here’s a far-from-in-depth grab:

12/9/11: The curtain has been pulled back on how this league operates, how Stern still sees himself as emperor, as a dictator of what he wants and how he wants it. Back on All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, Stern told those stars in an angry, true moment in the locker room that he knew where the bodies were buried because he had buried a lot of them. He threw that shovel over his shoulder again Thursday and walked away from one more dirt ditch.

6/30/11: And say goodbye to David Stern’s legacy, which will look like that of one more star player who stayed too long in the game, who was the last to know when it all passed him by.

6/24/11: Stern is no longer the sport’s leader, its moral compass, but the errand boy of the fringe owners.

10/19/09:  Yes, this behavior would’ve bought an NBA coach and GM the wrath of Emperor Stern, but Maccabi had international immunity.

1/30/09: When David Stern had the relentless resolve to make everyone forget the debauchery of a lost All-Star weekend on the Vegas Strip and a mobbed-up dirty referee, the commissioner turned New Orleans into a post-Katrina photo-op for the NBA’s beleaguered brand. He made sure every paint-brush stroke, every stunted swing of a hammer, had camera lenses to bear witness to the world.

10/30/06:  And it keeps him here on the 15th floor of the Olympic Tower, chasing tomorrow even after his longtime football contemporary, Tagliabue, called it a career. Eventually, the NBA has a way of bending to the commissioner’s will. There’s a relentless way to Stern that forever finds him getting his vision validated, getting his league his way.

That last one is from nearly six years ago when Wojnarowski wrote his first column for Yahoo. I didn’t have the pleasure of reading Woj prior to his Yahoo days, but I’m assuming this biting view of Stern has been a part of his writing for longer than just six years. Anyone familiar with his work knows he saves his most scathing tones and insults for the league’s most powerful—the guys who appear to be capable, but choose not to live up to the lofty standards their roles demand of them; namely Lebron James and David Stern.

As I was reading through his latest story on Thursday night, I shook my head at the remarkable consistency, the venom, the spittle, the intensity of his assault. I can imagine him pacing back and forth in his home office, wearing the carpet thin with a mug of coffee in his hand (likely his fourth or fifth), talking through the column—mostly in his head, but occasionally muttering words. Maybe there’s a dog following him around, getting wound up from the rising energy in the room. Maybe he chews on a pencil or a pen, jotting down ideas and phrases. Whatever the methodology, the end result is nothing short of a tamed hurricane made of words.

Impassioned words like this don’t just pop out of thin air. They’re cultivated over time and from something deep seeded; something a man feels in his muscles and nerves, way down in the core, something that makes his nostrils flare and his jaw clench. But as I wrote a friend an email about Stern last night, I wondered what I’ve always wondered: Where’s this axe to grind come from? Is there a hidden story we don’t know about? Somewhere along the line, did Stern insult a young Wojnarowski and scar him in the process? And to take the soap opera further: Stern has to know about Wojnarowski, right? He has to know this guy with the dark hair and glasses who looks more like a high school science teacher or an economist is slicing him up with razor blades every couple months, right? What’s it like when these two cross paths at NBA press conferences? Is Stern dropping a “cocksucker” under his breath when he passes Woj? Does Woj respond with a deliberate “prick?” I hope so, but I have my doubts.

As much as my imagination and my dependence on Hollywood for any sense of a storyline (conflict conflict conflict!) want to believe there’s this hidden personal feud between Commissioner David Stern and Adrian Wojnarowski, but unfortunately, I’ve got to accept Woj’s impeccable record here. His style is to bust the balls of anyone who crosses the NBA’s version of a 38th parallel (Dwight Howard, Gilbert Arenas, James, Stern)—and in extreme circumstances attempt to castrate them. And while occasionally, it does feel like he’s unfairly targeting a few unlucky characters; time has consistently revealed his portrayals, while aggressive, are honest and accurate.

Which leads to the next-to-last point in this Stern saga: If you believe Wojnarowski’s descriptions of Stern, if you accept the words of this well-respected journalist who has little to gain by publicly trashing the commissioner of the league he covers; then you have to acknowledge that David Stern is a real asshole, the kind of guy you’d despise and about whom you’d say things like, “if I didn’t work for him and he said that to me, I’d knock his old ass out,” the kind of guy you could actually describe as diabolical (maybe it’s a stretch, but let’s go with it). Think about that. How many diabolical people do you know? And if you know one or some, how hard do you try to limit your contact with those people? Woj describes him as a “dictator,” “emperor,” “errand boy,” paints him as a manipulator, a bully, a puppet master, ruthless. These are all fine characteristics if you’re Gordon fucking Gekko, but Commissioner Stern? The sweet looking old guy with that shit eating grin who’s always trying to convince us that the “NBA Cares?”

The final point; from the defenders of Stern—which, not surprisingly, include every employee of NBA TV and any player willing to get in front of a camera and say a few words about the Commissioner. He’s been successful; his job isn’t to make friends or be nice, his job is to make money for the league and the owners and you can’t argue against the success, just the approach. I have a huge book sitting on my bookshelf that I’ve never read. It’s the Steve Jobs biography and while I haven’t read it myself, I’m aware that Jobs had a reputation for pushing Apple employees to their breaking point, but it was always in the name of something larger; a strive for perfection in Apple products and judging by the cult of Apple acolytes and the ever-rising stock price, it’s fair to say Jobs was successful in his endeavors—just like Stern. For me, the big difference (again, not knowing all the details of Jobs’ backstory) is the ruthlessness that Stern has controlled his image whereas Jobs spoke openly about his intensity and approach. Successful? Yes, but at what cost?

If you think it’s just business for Woj and not personal, then you’ve got to be circling 2/1/14 as a day to celebrate. And if you refuse to accept that premise … then your imagination’s probably doing its own thing and trying to speculate on exactly what happened between these two men. The last option … you believe Stern was the greatest Commissioner in pro sports history … and you work for the NBA.

Whose fury are we looking at?

I’d Never Leave in Summer

Unlike the NBA, I’m back. Finally. After weeks of traversing the middle west of America, then returning home only to host the lost and wandering spirits of my friends and family, I’ve come back to this neglected blog with warmth and caring. I don’t want to care, but I can’t even help it at this point.

What the fuck’s happened in the past month? We lost Yao Ming (did the Chinese government take any responsibility for this prolonged assassination or was his destiny to be that of many young, bright, shining stars? To leave us too soon? If he had retired at 27, conspiracy theorists would’ve had a heyday.), we found out that Zbo extended his checks and is essentially lockout proof (there’s clearly a lot we don’t know about Zach Randolph or NBA salary options for that matter), Kobe, D. Rose and Durant made $400k each for a pair of exhibition games in the Phillipines (Sam Amick @ SI), NBA TV foolishly spoils every single game in its “Greatest Games” series not only by telling us who won in the cable description of each game (who writes these descriptions?), but even going as far as rubbing the outcome in our basketball-starved faces (see the picture); it doesn’t matter that we probably know the outcome already. It matters that the slightest bit of suspense, the little shred of unknowing is obliterated and I can’t help but imagine David Stern somehow takes pleasure in this. He doesn’t, but he’s in a bad position and an easy target at the moment. Who thought Stern would put himself in a position to be the guy with the bag in his hand?

A lot is happening, but we have no results. Each story or blog that pulls the curtain back and shows us a little bit more of the NBA’s behind the scenes revenues (great post by Ken Berger) reveals a league that feels like it’s trying to deceive. Each blurb or rumor about players mulling over international options to become lords of Chinese provinces, basketball playing Czars of Russia or creating the Turkish version of the Super Friends at Besiktas is a tiny win in a global battle. Yes, I’d love to see the owners collapse under of mountain of paper cuts.

I’m with the players on this one and it’s not even up for debate. The NBA made its bed by paying guys like Rashard Lewis nearly $20MM/year (karma for having to sit in the green room so long on draft night?) and giving Joe Johnson Floyd Mayweather money when he’s more like an aging Shane Mosley without the gentlemanly qualities. But it’s not Joe’s fault or Rashard’s fault (somehow it could be Mayweather’s fault). It’s not their agents’ faults. Even these two guys, symbols of obese salaries, of players taking payrolls hostage; even these salaries aren’t the real problem if you believe the numbers that keep pouring out of the sky like July rain in Seattle. For every report and fact we hear about how much money the league has made, the NBA and NBPA will have a different slant and spin. The truth is likely residing somewhere in the middle covered under a pile of steaming bullshit that Stern and Adam Silver (with a little help from Billy Hunter) shoveled there. I don’t know the truth and can’t even claim to because the amount of psychological warfare playing out in the media has me confused into believing Sepp Blatter is preventing Kobe from signing with Besiktas and David Stern has actually buried bodies somewhere (under some futuristic, revenue-generating arena no doubt). As of today, it’s the NBA and its owners that feel inflexible and deceptive. The owners and GMs sign the contracts just like the players and anyone who knows anything knows that Rashard Lewis was never worth the kind of money Orlando splashed on him. I can only imagine Shard and his agent booked the fuck out of the Orlando front office before the ink even dried. “Don’t look back, just go!”

I don’t want to care about this in the middle of summer. I want to eat hotdogs, watch Sounders games and sleep in the sun at Volunteer Park while people ride by on unicycles. Instead, I watch old games I already know the outcome of on NBA TV and see the NFL doing it right on ESPN. I prefer the cold comforts of apathy, but I’ve invested too much time into a league that gives me and owes me very little.

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