How David Stern Became The Most Controversial Commissioner In Sports History

david stern 1984 mustache

After a 30 year reign atop the NBA, David Stern will step down as commissioner on February 1, 2014.

The average NBA player salary increased from $275,000 in the 1983-84 season (the year before Stern was named commissioner) to somewhere around $5 million today.

While that alone should label David Stern as a “player’s commissioner,” his name has instead become synonymous with the terms “controversy” and “boos.”

From the mandatory “business casual” dress code to the bizarre veto of the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers, David Stern will go down as one of, if not the most controversial commissioner in sports history.

David Stern first became involved with the NBA in 1966...

... as an outside counsel at law firm Proskauer Rose.

In 1978, Stern became the NBA's top lawyer when he was named the league's general counsel, and by 1980, Stern became executive vice president of the NBA.

As EVP, he helped institute a salary cap and drug testing.

David Stern succeeded Larry O'Brien as commissioner of the NBA on February 1, 1984.

Stern's first draft as NBA commissioner included future hall of famers Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockon.

With Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird carrying the NBA to new heights, Stern began adding new franchises.

The Charlotte Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans) and Miami Heat formed in 1988, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic began play the following year in 1989.

For the first time ever, NBA players were allowed to participate in the Olympics in the 1992 Summer Games.

The 'Dream Team' captivated an international audience as it crushed its opponents by an average of 43.8 points per game.

In 1995, the NBA moved north to Canada.

Two new Canadian franchises were added to the mix: the Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors.

Then, two new leagues formed.

The WNBA was formed in 1996, and it has struggled mightily since its founding. Multiple teams have folded or relocated, and attendance has fluctuated year-over-year.

The NBA Development League came into existence in 2001, and it serves as the NBA's official minor league system.

NBA TV turned into a great investment.

Founded in 1999, NBA TV is now worth somewhere between $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion, based off projections from analytics firm SNL Kagan.

Not to mention, the NBA itself receives $930 million a year for broadcasting rights from TNT and ABC/ESPN.

And why not, let's add another team.

After the Hornets franchise relocated to New Orleans, the NBA promised Charlotte an expansion team.

So, the city of Charlotte got the Bobcats in 2004.

The Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004 left the NBA with a black eye.

The 'Malice in the Palace' resulted in the suspension of nine players, who also faced legal consequences outside of the NBA.

Ron Artest received the longest suspension in NBA history for an on-court incident.

In an effort to class up the NBA's image after the 'Malice in the Palace,' Stern implemented a mandatory dress code that essentially banned hip-hop fashion.

Tim Duncan called it 'a load of crap' and Stephen Jackson felt it was a 'racial statement' (via ESPN).

The NBA also had a new age limit rule written into its CBA in 2005.

High school players could no longer jump straight into the NBA Draft. Eligible draftees must be at least 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school graduation.

Then, in 2007, the Tim Donaghy betting scandal shook the NBA to its core.

In 2007, referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to charges of betting on games he called.

In turn, Donaghy accused the NBA of using refs to fix games and favour certain players and teams.

Throughout his reign as NBA commissioner, Stern oversaw four player lockouts and one referee lockout.

The NBA lockouts of 1995 and 1996 were resolved before the regular season even started, so no games were missed.

The lockouts of 1998 and 2011, however, resulted in shortened 50-game and 66-game seasons, respectively.

Stern also oversaw the NBA referee lockout of 2009 in which an agreement was made just days before the regular season tip-off.

Stern stirred up a huge pot of controversy when he vetoed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers.

For a brief moment last winter, it looked like Chris Paul was set to become a LA Laker.

Until David Stern stepped in and vetoed the trade.

Some saw Stern's intervention as a blatant abuse of power while others thought he did the right thing.

As radio host Jim Rome repeatedly pelted him with questions on whether the NBA rigged the draft lottery, David Stern quipped back with this line: 'Have you stopped beating your wife yet?'

Stern then proceeded to insult Jim Rome and his line of questioning throughout the interview.

This on-air tantrum unnecessarily diverted attention away from the NBA Finals between the Heat and Thunder to Stern and his vindictiveness.

David Stern wanted to bring a team back to Seattle...

... but the NBA Board of Governors voted to keep the Kings in Sacromento. Here's how Stern opened up a press conference announcing the vote:

'This is going to be short for me. I have a game to get to in Oklahoma City.'

The original Seattle team, by the way, moved to Oklahoma City. Intentional or not, Stern's poor choice of words made it seem like the NBA couldn't care any less about its fans in Seattle.

Everyone thinks the NBA Draft is fixed.

The conspiracy theories started as early as 1985, when people accused Stern of fixing the draft lottery to ensure that the large market New York Knicks would receive the first overall pick.

Some NBA executives even bought into the conspiracy theories as recently as the 2012 NBA Draft lottery.

Booing David Stern at the NBA Draft has become a tradition...

... although David Stern did receive a standing ovation on his final draft pick announcement.

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