Last week NBA commissioner David Stern announced he would be stepping down from his position on Feb. 1, 2014. This target date represents the 30th anniversary of Stern being hired as NBA commissioner in 1984. He will be replaced by deputy commissioner Adam Silver. Stern has the longest current tenure among the top four professional sports organizations as a top executive. The NBA commissioner explains his journey in the following interview. David Stern joined 98.7 ESPN New York with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco to discuss the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets rivalry, the reason behind stepping down as NBA commissioner on Feb. 1, 2014 and his critics over the past 30 years.How great is this rivalry between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets?“I have a little bit of a different take on it. If you put up a wall between Brooklyn and Manhattan, you’d still have a city that is top 10, maybe top five, in the NBA called Brooklyn, where there’s access even more into the island. So I think there is going to be a tremendous [situation].
I grew up as a New York Giant fan. I never set foot in Ebbets Field. Why would I go into the enemy’s territory?
Occasionally Yankees Stadium. I lived in Manhattan, but Brooklyn was a foreign country to me because it housed those horrible Dodgers. I think that the competition level is going to be wonderful for fans and I am not sure about the hearts and minds, which we’ll see. I think there’s a whole group of current fans and also non-NBA fans that is really looking at this as a renaissance for Brooklyn. Now we’ve got a billion-dollar building in Brooklyn and a … brand new Garden in New York and these guys are going to go at it for the hearts and minds of New Yorkers. I think it’s great and it’s only going to propel the league to better situations.”Feb. 1, 2014?
What made that time the right time to retire from the NBA?
“I think that I had decided in my mind there came a time to announce when I would be leaving the NBA as commissioner. I picked the date that happened to be the date where I would be 30 years as commissioner. It seemed to be a nice, round number. On the 30th anniversary of Feb. 1, 1984, when I became commissioner, that is when I will step down. It’s that simple. I had to pick a date and I honestly felt the game was in as good of a condition than it has been for awhile. We’ve been through all kinds of struggles the last few years of a different nature. We are poised to have explosive growth nationally, explosive growth internationally, and a new television contract. We’ve got record renewals from our fans and renewed interests from our sponsors and there’s somebody here by the name of Adam Silver, who’s been a deputy commissioner that has worked with me for 20 years and is going to do a better job than I can. So why not? Let’s do it all. We have a world-class executive in the wings and let him have some fun with it.”
How do you feel about the criticism of you over the years?
“I think if you do something with your heart and soul for 30 years, you are not going to please everyone. Actually the people who I am negotiating with during all those lockouts have been the primary beneficiaries of the last 30 years. When I started, players salaries were somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars. I’m proud to say this season they will be over $5 million. We’ve had quite a run together. Now, along the way you have to stop and argue about splitting up the pie and then you get together to agree to grow it again, but these last negotiations were a huge and important issue for our league. We now have the opportunity, finally, for a system that has both revenue sharing and a collective bargaining agreement that will allow our teams the opportunity to be competitive and profitable, if and only if they are well managed. To me, maybe I have rubbed some people the wrong way along the way and people can be justifiably harsh to me about that, but I think the people, who I ultimately serve, who are the fans, the players and the owners, are in a much better place than they were before when I took over.”