With all the fallout from Communist Commissioner David Stern nixing a blockbuster, fare and completely legal trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers it is easy to forget why the league is in this fix to begin with. Before I get longwinded let me just say this much: Stern put the first three letters in the term dictator. Catch my drift?
For a moment forget about Dan Gilbert and the latest entry in his book on how to be a Myopic Millionaire Douchebag. Gilbert is as Gilbert does. I’m no more mad at him than I am the smell of a fresh pile of dog poo wafting into my nostrils on a hot summer afternoon. Stink is as stink does.
For a moment put aside this idiotic debate between small market and big market teams. Any true hoops fans knows the San Antonio Spurs have equal chance of winning titles just like the Los Angeles Lakers. Just as the New York Knicks have an equal chance of sucking like a crack whore needing a fix like the Los Angeles Clippers. Winners win. Losers make excuses.
Instead, I’m just going to focus in on Executioner Stern and all his decisions that have led us to this seminal point in professional basketball.
First, a brief reminder on how this game of basketball works.
Yes, you need a team from top to bottom to win championships when you’re talking about hoops on the highest level. Still, no team will ever win without exceptional talent. Even when you try to argue that teams like the ’04 Pistons did it without Hall of Famers I’d still argue that they had players (Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace) that were among the NBA elite at their respective positions at that time.
That being said, when Commissioner Stern was trying to expand the NBA brand in the 80’s he knew the only way to get the casual fan involved was to market the great individuals. Thus Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and the greatest NBA marketing machine of all-time, Michael Jordan, were elevated above the team and put on a pedestal. Naturally, none of those men won by themselves. They all played with some of the greatest teams of all-time. However Stern made them icons and in turn made them more important than the franchises they played for.
Flash forward more than two decades later and the young men that grew up in a star driven NBA world are now playing in the NBA.
LeBron James’ nationally televised train wreck known as ‘The Decision’ was a direct result of the Stern doctrine birthed in the 80’s. LeBron wants the status that MJ had. Carmelo Anthony’s desire to play in the Garden for a living was a direct result of Stern policy. Melo wants to feel some of that love from the hoops Mecca. And yes, Chris Paul’s desire to follow in the footsteps of Magic is also a notion given wings by the marketing madness of the NBA’s rise in the 80’s and 90’s
All roads lead directly back to Stern.
Something else Stern has been adamant about is keeping the dying Hornets franchise alive. For a hot second professional basketball was rivaling college hoops in North Carolina. But after the newness of the Charlotte Hornets wore off the team was taken further south to New Orleans. Again, the same fanaticism came and went. Some can be attributed to general disinterest. However a lot of those empty seats were collateral damage of the worst natural disaster in modern history here in the States. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in many ways. The Hornets were part of that.
While the city rebuilt Stern took the Hornets to Oklahoma City. A town with a burgeoning basketball scene embraced the team even though they knew it was temporary. Meanwhile the word was out that the Big Easy was going to take the sting out of pro ball in Louisiana. Still, Stern insisted and ripped the Hornets from the impassioned fans in OKC and was militant about keeping them in New Orleans. So insistent was Stern that he had the league take over the team in the NBA’s “best interest”.
Meanwhile another great hoops city, Seattle, was being ripped of their basketball pride. The Sonics were no more and Stern threw his hands up saying there was nothing he could do. So as a gesture of goodwill he allowed OKC to get a franchise. Meanwhile they’re still hoopless in Seattle and the Hornets are no closer to financial solvency than Anna Faris is to winning an Oscar.
All that brings us to Stern pumping the brakes on the CP3 deal. He says it is in the best interest of the New Orleans franchise. Funny because I’d think getting an all-star caliber player in return is better than seeing a Chris Paul swan song. No matter what Paul is gone after this year.
If Stern somehow thinks he’s preserving players from jumping to join bigger markets then he needs to move the NBA league offices from New York to Kansas City. He set this precedent by marketing the individuals in sexy cities so this is the mess he’s created.
The reality is that it is not really a mess. Since when is it illegal for individuals to decide where they’d prefer to both live and work? Last time I checked that is just life.
Stern needs to stand up to the owners like he does the players. The only thing preventing any NBA franchise from winning is the front office and not the market in which said franchise is based. Bet Dan Gilbert would rethink not trading J.J. Hickson for Amare Stoudemire. That had nothing to do with poor little cash poor Cleveland. That was all about an owner and GM not knowing the value (or lack thereof) of their own player.
Simply put, David Stern. You made this bed and now you must sleep in it. If there are problems with the NBA’s structure it is not the fault of the employees. They simply show up and punch the clock. Management is responsible for the business model. Look in the mirror, Mr. Stern. Chances are you’ll find the biggest problem staring right back into your eyes. That is if your reflection can even bear to look you in the face any longer.