The 2012-13 NBA season will be the last full season for NBA commissioner David Stern.
Stern will retire as commissioner on February 1, 2014, it was announced at an NBA Board of Governors meeting on Thursday. He will be replaced by deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
By far the highest-profile commissioner in sports, Stern replaced Larry O’Brien as NBA commissioner on February 1, 1984 after having various roles with the league for the previous eighteen years. His first decade as commissioner was marked by unprecedented success for the NBA.
Bolstered by stars Earvin Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, the league’s popularity dramatically increased during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Over the past two decades, however, Stern’s tenure has been marked by almost continuous controversy. Four times in seventeen years (1995, 1996, 1998-99 and 2011), Stern and NBA owners have locked out the players in collective bargaining negotiations, resulting in two shortened seasons (1998-99 and 2011-12).
NBA players were tarred and feathered as thugs and criminals thanks to high-profile off-court incidents, including Latrell Sprewell choking his coach in 1997, Kobe Bryant being accused of sexual assault in 2003, and Ron Artest sparking a player-fan brawl with Pistons fans in 2004.
Further embarrassing the league was the 2007 arrest of referee Tim Donaghy, who gambled on games that he officiated. The Donaghy scandal added fuel to claims that the league — and Stern, specifically — manipulated the results of playoff series for the benefit of TV partners.
Such accusations are baseless and frankly moronic. Yet they persist thanks to fans, local broadcasters, players, coaches, and owners who complain about almost every call and view any defeat as having been personally ordered by the commissioner.
Beyond the big issues — collective bargaining, player image woes, perceptions of impropriety — there were the small-scale controversies. The new ball, the dress code, the Chris Paul trade, the myriad maelstroms that have surrounded the league in recent years.
Needless to say, the issues have taken a toll on Stern’s image.
Stern will be the first professional sports commissioner to step down since NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in 2006.
‘Commissioner-elect’ Silver will not exactly ease into his new position. Within three years of Silver’s tenure, the NBA will negotiate a new national television deal effective for the 2016-17 season, and either the NBA or NBPA will more than likely opt-out of the current collective bargaining agreement in 2017.
(Thursday’s news from ESPN.com)