Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY
It is hard to believe that we have (finally) reached the last week of David Stern's tenure as commissioner of the NBA.
It has really been a crazy 30 years for Stern, who has ushered the NBA from also-ran league nobody in the nation cared about (they thought it was "too Black" at various points and incapable of reaching mainstream America) to the second most popular sport in the world and the most popular American sport internationally, in all likelihood.
Stern has rankled many fans with his perceived arrogance and his tireless defense of the league and its interests. He dismises the conspiracy theories many fans have flippantly.
There has been no one that is as big a fan of the game as David Stern. And likely no one that has done more for the sport. David Aldridge of NBA.com compiled a really masterful oral history of Stern's 30 years as commissioner of the NBA:
You could measure Stern's reign by the numbers -- players have become rich, owners have become richer. The NBA is broadcast in more than 250 countries worldwide, and its players are among the most famous athletes in the world. The league gets more than $7 billion through 2016 from its current television deals with ESPN, ABC and Turner (my company), and is likely to get a bigger deal next time around. League revenues are projected at more than $5.5 billion this season.
Or, you could measure his time by the seismic social change that has occurred in his league. Black men that were shunned by much of White America in the late '70s are now cultural icons. Allen Iverson was as big a hit in China as he was in Philly. "Be Like Mike" wasn't just a corporate slogan for many.
Did Stern cause all that to happen? Of course not.
Stern was incredibly lucky with Michael Jordan coming, but he put the league in a position to take advantage of that. And his greatness.
From the Orlando perspective, there is no Orlando Magic without David Stern's vision.
Pat Williams certainly had the vision to bring the campaign for an NBA team to Orlando, but it still took Stern's leadership with the Board of Governors to seal the deal. He was also a big part in keeping the team in Orlando and eventually building the Amway Center.
It is hard to believe that this is Stern's final week as commissioner. For many (like me), Stern has been commissioner their entire lives. He has always had an effect on the game and helped grow it through all the controversies. The NBA is certainly in a better place now thanks to him.