February 1st marks David Stern’s last day as the commissioner of the NBA. And for some fans, they are rejoicing his exit. I’m sure Laker fans remember the voided trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers or when the Pelicans landed the first pick in the draft after the league took over ownership of the team for a while. Or who can forget the suspensions that he dropped on the Pacers team after Ron Artest went into the stands versus the Detroit Pistons? All of these things have left a bad taste in some fans’ mouths. But for all the negative that some perceive he did, you have to admit that Stern definitely took the league to another level under his ownership.
When Stern first took over thirty years ago, then NBA was not a very visible league at all. There was not a huge television deal for the NBA in place. In fact, games during the weekdays were tape-delayed and some were worried about the league’s stability. But Stern had some ideas to make some things happen. He has always said the players make the league, so he took that chance and got some deals with some television channels to showcase the player live. Stern’s gamble paid off and produced for him and the NBA. Who can forget the NBA on NBC back in the day:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Pnl1ulaG5k&w=420&h=315] Stern would eventually move on from this deal and create the NBA network along with other deals with ESPN and Turner Sports that total up to around $930 million annually. The league, under his care, has grown to one of the most profitable around. All thanks to his vision and his ability to turn his vision into a reality.
With the growth of the NBA and the revenues, Stern also grew the salaries of the players. When Stern first started as commissioner, the average salary of a player was only about six figures. The salary for Michael Jordan his rookie season was only $550,000. Fast forward to Jordan’s last year in Chicago and he was making an astounding $33 million for only one season. That is just one example of the growth of salaries, but the average salary for players has now reached over $5 million. Stern, even though some perceive him as a tyrant, has made the players richer than they ever were in the past. Honestly, players today should thank him for all the money he has helped them make. He helped players make money they and their families could live off of for a long time (if they spend it wisely that is).
All in all, Stern may have had some bad moments, but he also helped grow the NBA as a whole. And if it wasn’t for him, who knows where the league would be. He has been a master of marketing. I would like to personally thank him for all he has done and I think the league, players and fans should thank him for all he has done also. Next stop for Stern is the Basketball Hall of Fame.
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