360° Coverage : David Stern: Out of the Bushes, Through the Fire, Into the...

2 Updates
David Stern: Out of the Bushes, Through the Fire, Into the Pantheon

David Stern: Out of the Bushes, Through the Fire, Into the Pantheon

Jan 28 2014, 7:10am CST | by

Legendary commissioners aren’t born, they’re made the hard way. There have been but two in U.S. leagues in the last 50 years (no, Bud Selig isn’t one), the NFL’s Pete Rozelle and the NBA’s David...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

31 weeks ago

David Stern: Out of the Bushes, Through the Fire, Into the Pantheon

Jan 28 2014, 7:10am CST | by

Legendary commissioners aren’t born, they’re made the hard way. There have been but two in U.S. leagues in the last 50 years (no, Bud Selig isn’t one), the NFL’s Pete Rozelle and the NBA’s David Stern. As venerated as Rozelle is and Stern will be next week when he’s out of the line of fire, neither went out to the sound of cheering but of incoming.

Rozelle, received as a wunderkind in 1960, retired in 1989 after an exhausting decade, wrangling with his owners over his refusal to settle Al Davis’ suit. NFL lawyers wound up knocking the Raiders’ $35 million award down to chump change, but not before new breed owners like Dallas’ Jerry Jones and San Diego’s Alex Spanos had begun embracing the once-isolated Davis.

The NFL lost games to work stoppages in 1982 and 1987. As Rozelle stepped down in 1989, the NFL Players Assn. was preparing to decertify so its former members could file an anti-trust suit.

Stern taking over in the ’80s, an NBA golden age, was hailed by Sports Illustrated in 1991 as the “best commissioner in sports… the equal of [Rozelle] and baseball’s Kenesaw Mountain Landis.” Now you can’t bring up Stern’s name without hearing about Tim Donaghy, the crooked referee; stars like LeBron James joining Dwyane Wade in Miami, making themselves bigger than the game; incessant replays, suspensions, et al., in what the New York Times called Stern’s “long, storied, occasionally polarizing tenure.”

On the other hand, you no longer hear the old charge that the NBA works only for rich teams. Nor is there a trace of the self-loathing in what was once dismissed as a “YMCA league,” that reached its highest expressions with Wilt Chamberlain’s “My Life in a Bush League” Sports Illustrated cover in 1965.

A distant third behind the NFL and baseball through the 1980s, the NBA is now a behemoth. With the owners slicing the players’ 58-42 share of revenue to 50-50 in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, profits and franchise values are ramping up. In an eye-popping bequest to his successor, Adam Silver’s first major piece of business will be to negotiate new network TV deals amid projections that rights fees could double from their current $930 million a season.

The 2011 labor talks were a masterpiece for Stern, despite the fact he was no longer the absolute ruler he had been for 20 years, when Bulls/White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a force behind the scenes in baseball, didn’t attend NBA meetings, saying everything was already decided.

Two sources in the room described an exchange between Stern and the Clippers’ Donald Sterling at an owners meeting in Las Vegas in the run-up to the lockout. Pressed by Stern for his opinion, Sterling demurred, then blurted, “I would fire you. You’re great at marketing but you’re not tough enough with the union.”

If Sterling was a loner, there was real pressure from new breed owners like Dallas’ Mark Cuban and an insurgent small market coalition. Stern adeptly made their draconian demands his and delivered, staying well away from a January drop-dead date by sheer sleight of hand. With the players looking at seven weeks of lost paychecks, counting start-up time, Stern offered to make three of them up if they settled in time to start on Christmas. They did.

(Of course, negotiations between millionaires and billionaires have a lot of room for compromise. NBA players remain the highest paid at an average of $5.2 million annually. Minimums, starting at $490,000 for a rookie free agent, are also the highest.)

This ended a 12-year odyssey, in which Stern sailed his ship through the perfect storm of the post-Michael Jordan era that began in 1999 hen Mike left Chicago, ending the NBA’s heyday. TV ratings cratered. Players rumbled with each other–and fans–on the floor and in the stands in the 2004 Auburn Hills Riot. Worst of all, a 2007 FBI investigation turned up Donaghy, who admitted giving information to gamblers, insisting he hadn’t fixed games—but claiming that other referees had, at the league’s direction. If none of Donaghy’s charges were corroborated, they left the NBA all but radioactive.

With the economy struggling and ad budgets slashed in 2001, the NBA was in the wrong place at the wrong time to start talks for a post-MJ TV deal. NBC’s Bob Ebersol, who had walked away from the NFL four years before, offered a 33% cut from $1.8 billion to $1.2 billion–going that high only because Stern had invited the Walt Disney Co. into the process. Noting Disney’s losses from televising NFL games at sky-high rates, media analyst Brian Schecter told the New York Times, “If David Stern pulls this out of his hat, he’s a true magician of TV rights negotiations.”

Stern pulled a six-year deal averaging $767 million out of his hat–with Disney paying $485 million of it, 50% more than NBC offered–taking the bulk of his package to cable with ABC airing fewer games and only two rounds of the playoffs and the rest on ESPN and Turner. Daring as it seemed (“Cable is said to muscle out NBC for NBA rights,” said the New York Times headline), it carried the league to the brink of a better day.

Having dodged so many cannonballs, Stern saw NBA fortunes turn up, starting with the miracle revival of the dormant Laker-Celtic rivalry in the 2008 and 2010 Finals. James’ unpopular decision to leave Cleveland turned Miami into the most hated team in NBA history, boosting Finals TV ratings which have now beaten the World Series in five of the last six years.

If this was more like tripping blithely on crocodiles’ snouts than walking on water, Stern, true to his unapologetic nature, resists my commissioners-under-fire story line (and most others I ventured in 24 years covering him), as if Auburn Hills, Donaghy, et al, were inconveniences.

“Maybe it helped me to grow up in a time when we were going to go out of business because there were too many black players,” Stern told me in 2011. “They were alleged to have sniffed too much cocaine. And they were wildly overpaid–at $250,000 apiece. We had meetings talking about folding franchises, combining franchises…./>/>

“When Pete Rozelle became commissioner of the NFL, the NBA had eight teams. I can talk about an arc but to me it’s always one challenge after another because this is a challenging and fun job.

“I don’t buy your premise is what I’m saying.”

No, the NBA isn’t likely to see another David Stern. In his greatest gift to the league, it may not need one.

Source: Forbes Business

 
Update
2

4 days ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

5 days ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tr ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Watch your diet to reduce diabetes risk
London, Sep 3 (IANS) What you eat and drink, and not just the number of calories, is a significant factor in diabetes risk, a study showed.
 
 
2016 NASA asteroid mission awaits your messages
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) NASA has invited the public to submit short messages and images on social media that could be placed in a time capsule aboard a spacecraft to be launched in 2016 for an asteroid study.
 
 
Exercise can stem frequent night urination in men
New York, Sep 3 (IANS) Men who are physically active are at lower risk of nocturia - waking up at night to urinate, says a study.
 
 
Nippon Life keen to hike stake in Reliance Life
Tokyo, Sep 3 (IANS) Nippon Life Insurance of Japan wants to hike its stake in its Indian joint venture Reliance Life Insurance to 49 percent from 26 percent, when India notifies the decision of higher foreign equity cap in the sector, a news report here said.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Watch your diet to reduce diabetes risk
London, Sep 3 (IANS) What you eat and drink, and not just the number of calories, is a significant factor in diabetes risk, a study showed. Losing weight may be good but not enough to prevent Type 2 diabetes as...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
35 militants killed in Afghanistan
Kabul, Sep 3 (IANS) At least 35 Taliban militants have been killed in fresh military operations across Afghanistan, the interior ministry said Wednesday. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) carried out...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Vince Vaughn for The Politician?
Vince Vaughn is set to star in 'The Politician'. The 'Wedding Crashers' star is attached to take on the lead role in the upcoming Columbia comedy about a scandal-hit politician, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
910 militants, 82 soldiers killed in North Waziristan
Islamabad, Sep 3 (IANS) At least 910 militants and 82 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan, the military said Wednesday. The statement issued by the Inter-Services Public...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
'Headscarf instils positive body image in British Muslim women'
London, Sep 3 (IANS) British Muslim women who wear a hijab (headscarf) generally have a more positive body image, are less reliant on media messages about beauty ideals and place less importance on appearance than...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Console games new threat to global climate: Study
New York, Sep 3 (IANS) Console games downloaded over broadband internet are causing more greenhouse gas emissions than Blu-ray discs delivered via retail stores, new research reveals. It is not always true that...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Human greed driving species towards extinction: Study
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) In a disturbing trend, scientists have reported that species are becoming extinct as much as 1,000 times more frequently - 10 times worse than the previous estimates - owing to human population...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Kelly Brook's traumatic childhood
Kelly Brook has opened up about ''violent and horrific'' memories from her childhood. The 35-year-old actress has revealed that although she enjoyed some aspects of growing up on a council estate in Kent, South East...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Emmy Rossum not 'easy'
Emmy Rossum insists she's not ''easy'' like her 'Shameless' character. The 27-year-old actress stars as Fiona Gallagher in the US remake of the hit series and she's revealed that although she's had sex on a first date,...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
2016 NASA asteroid mission awaits your messages
Washington, Sep 3 (IANS) NASA has invited the public to submit short messages and images on social media that could be placed in a time capsule aboard a spacecraft to be launched in 2016 for an asteroid study. Called...
Read more on Apple Balla