For the most part things have fallen into place pretty smoothly for David Stern during his time as Commissioner of the NBA. Let’s just agree to look past his controversial vetoed trade that kept Chris Paul from joining Kobe in LA, the pointless/failed attempt to introduce a new “microfiber” basketball to the league and four NBA lockouts with two causing regular season games to be missed (1998-99 & 2011).
Besides a few bumps in the road, Stern couldn’t have stepped in to run the league at a better time. He took over in 84’ the same year this guy named Michael Jordan stepped on the scene for his rookie year and the NBA became a global brand. Since then new waves of young talent keep entering the draft. But this happens to be Stern’s final season as Commissioner and as much as he would like to go out with a bang, it’s looking like he might go out with a limp…pun intended (I’ll explain later). Check out these five reasons David Stern is on suicide watch leading up to the end of his tenure as Commissioner of the NBA.
1. Starless Nights
Stern can do nothing but helplessly watch as his last playoff run as Commissioner is being sabotaged by freak injuries to some of the best and most marketable players in the league. Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook were knocked out of action and required surgery. Blake Griffin, Joe Johnson, Rajon Rondo and almost every player on the Chicago Bulls missed games or had limited time on the hardwood because of injuries. The Golden State Warriors fought their way back to being relevant again and suddenly their only All-Star, David Lee, suffered a hip injury. Lee showed heart by returning but he couldn’t play at full speed or many minutes.
2. U-G-L-Y Series
Under Stern’s reign as Commissioner the NBA turned from the physical, aggressive street ball style of play that made the rivalries of the 90’s so gritty to a more structured and slightly boring game. Rule changes were made to speed up the action and push for free-flowing offense. Teams built like the Bulls obviously didn’t get that memo. Jordan’s former squad prefers to play a slower paced game with a focus on defense and scoring in the paint. Instead of giving up the spectacular highlight-worthy dunks to a team like the Heat, they’d rather commit a hard foul and make them earn two points at the line. Stern probably squirms in his seat every time he sees superstars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get laid out when they attack the basket.
3. Pacers Crashed the Party
The Eastern Conference Finals was supposed to come down to the must-see-TV battle between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks. The matchup has been hyped up ever since LeBron chose to take his talents to South Beach instead of taking a bite out of the Big Apple. Melo was more than ready to join the Knicks and get them back to respectability, but nobody informed the Indiana Pacers that they weren’t supposed to be this good. After bullying their way past the Knicks in six games, the Pacers are ready for the Heat. Indiana’s biggest strengths–big bodies and rebounding–are the Heat’s biggest weakness. With the Western Conference Finals lacking any huge household names, Stern would hate to see the Heat get knocked out before reaching the ‘ship.
4. The Heat Affect
NBA fans are split off into two groups; those who love the Heat and those who hate them. But no matter how you feel about the “Heatles,” people tune in to watch them hoop. People who don’t even like basketball are checking in to see what type of outfit Dwyane Wade will be wearing entering and exiting the arena. He’s been turning heads and taking criticism with his latest European-tinged swag. Despite his fashion risks he’s still a part of the “Big 3” and they demand your attention and respect. Stern would have to dig deep into his bag of tricks to sell people on a Finals minus the Miami Heat and their star power.
5. Imagine Trying to Pitch this Finals Matchup: Pacers vs. Spurs/Grizzlies…
These teams have talented guys. They made it this deep into the playoffs for a reason. The only problem is, everybody isn’t a hardcore basketball fan and these teams don’t have players whose names ring bells. Tony Parker is known outside of the sports world for his marriage and divorce to Eva Longoria and his law suit stemming from the Drake vs. Chris Brown beef. Outside of him, casual sports fans won’t have that big star to gravitate too. The league would have the battle of a lifetime building interest for a series featuring players people aren’t emotionally invested in. Stern is probably praying to the basketball God’s that D. Wade’s knee will hold out and LeBron can lead the Heat past the Pacers so his last Finals as Commissioner won’t be the most slept on in recent history.
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