Thirty years is the nice, round number NBA Commissioner David Stern has decided to end his reign on, which was announced earlier this week. Stern will hand over full duties to Adam Silver on Feb. 1, 2014 but not before becoming the longest-tenured commission in major pro sports (Pete Rozelle, NFL). Silver has been Stern's right-hand man for the past six years as Deputy Commissioner.
There have been some truly remarkable eras in NBA history. From the league's inception in the 40s, to the 60s with the Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain, to the 3-point line and shot clock. The past 30 years on Stern's watch has produced perhaps the greatest era we've seen yet. I haven't been this excited for the opening of an NBA season since last year. And then the year before that, etc.
Stern took over the league in 1984, announcing his first draft that same year -- calling the name of Michael Jordan and welcoming him to the league, a league already thriving with the Bird-Magic rivalry at its peak.
There have been some bumps in the road along the way in 30 years, of course -- you can't be in the game that long without a hiccup here and there. The '99 strike, the Tim Donaghy/referee betting scandal and last year's strike have all been unfortunate (especially the referee situation, that's not going away) but nothing compared to the handling of crisis by other league's "commander-in-chiefs" -- Bud Selig and Roger Goodell.
I might actually still be interested in Major League Baseball if Selig had been fired 10 years ago. Instead the handling of the "steroid era" was/is horrible, and television viewership continues to drop to record lows. Instead, the baseball owners continue to extend his contract and America's interest continues to go downhill.
The NFL's greed and troubling safety issues have made Goodell the face of hypocrisy and power-run-amok. The handling of the Saints' "bounty case" alone proves how much arrogance can accompany the power these positions hold.
People can point out the smugness of Stern as well, it's a trait that's unavoidable with running a league, but Stern delivers it better than others. And honestly, if I had to choose, the NBA is the best league in America so there's another point for Stern in my book. The masses may choose the NFL currently, but Stern's been doing it longer.
I love basketball and I love watching great basketball players so, naturally, the NBA is where my interest is going to lie. I've watched it close for decades and I'm a young man. The only NBA I know is the David J. Stern NBA. And from one fan here in the heart of America, job well done.