David Stern's Best and Worst Moments as NBA Commissioner

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks during a memorial service for Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on February 21, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Buss died at the age of 80 on Monday following an 18-month battle with cancer. Buss won 10 NBA championships as Lakers owner since purchasing the team in 1979.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

As the Sacramento Kings wait to find out whether or not they'll end up becoming the Seattle SuperSonics in the near future, David Stern waits to see where his legacy will lay.

He plans on retiring in less than a year with the hopes of returning a team to Seattle on his to-do list before that day comes.

In his time as the face, head and shoulders of the NBA, Stern has coined the term "basketball reasons," let conspiracy theories run rampant and watched as two seasons were shortened thanks to lockouts. 

He's also been in charge for the acceptance of new media, watched as team values have skyrocketed and the game has grown beyond what anyone could have imagined when he took over as commissioner.

So what is he going to be remembered for, and what moments throughout his career stick out above any other?

That will come with time, but there are plenty of points in his career to nominate for the time being.


Stern Taketh Away, yet Stern Giveth

There tend to be many two-fold moments in Stern's tenure that show how Stern's failures are generally fixed, or his triumphs are knocked down a peg by an unexpected disaster.

One of the most black-and-white examples has to be his oversight and blatant hand-holding of Clay Bennett's robbery of the Seattle Supersonics.

The entire nation (save Texas' hat) watched with eyes agape as the SuperSonics became the Thunder almost overnight.

Stern has completely gotten behind a new team making its way to Seattle at some point, whether it be the current incarnation of the Sacramento Kings, or an expansion franchise set in place sometime after his departure.

What effect would relocating yet another team during his time as league commissioner have? That remains to be seen.

What seems evident is that Stern is at least supportive of righting one of his biggest wrongs.


Lockouts and Launches

David Stern oversaw four lockouts in his time as league commissioner, two of which saw significant portions of the season go by the wayside thanks to stubbornness on either side of the debate, along with some procrastination by the ownership group.

1998's lockout lasted into January of 1999 and slashed 32 games off the schedule, while the more recent lockout that shortened the 2011-12 season knocked 16 games off the schedule.

Perhaps they were necessary for the continued growth of the league while money troubles may or may not have persisted, but they showed a lack of leadership, which should have been Stern's main goal.

Even still, Stern presided over the NBA while adding seven teams throughout his time, giving basketball to Miami, Minnesota, Orlando, Charlotte (New Orleans), Vancouver (Memphis), Toronto and Charlotte again.

Plus, Stern instituted what may be the most successful professional women's sports league in the country with the WNBA.

While they've seen a few teams fall off the map, they've also seen growth and profit in the process.


The Life-Long Accomplishment and the Momentary Disaster

While his greatest accomplishment was on a huge scale, his biggest failure happened to be on a micro-managed level that completely got out of hand.

The NBA has been expanding at a rapid rate during the past two decades, and there was no period of growth after Michael Jordan started the NBA's expansion quite like the the mid-2000s.

Yao Ming had come into the league, they were expanding their influence into China and Africa and business was a-boomin'.

Globally, the NBA was as powerful as ever, but the very walls that the company was built on were in danger of crumbling, all thanks to one man giving us the smallest peephole into a scandal that could have crippled the league.

Tim Donaghy was arrested in 2007 and eventually sentenced to 15 months for his part played in a gambling scandal.

What this did was open up a wormhole to accusations of game-fixing as Donaghy accused the league of employing "company men" to control their outcome. In other words, it was an enormous disaster on the most local scale possible.

I've been involved with the NBA for 40 years in some shape or form, and I can tell you that this is the most serious situation and worst situation that I have ever experienced, either as a fan of the NBA, a lawyer for the NBA or as a commissioner of the NBA.

Whether it was indeed a rogue individual or not, Stern let this one slip through the five-hole while looking down the rink.

Call it a blemish, a black eye, a huge screw-up, whatever. What it did was give life to every single conspiracy theory that had come up during Stern's tenure, allowing people to question each strange occurrence that happened, be it a poorly officiated game or a potentially fixed draft lottery.