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In Sports Commentary

NBA Commissioner David Stern has not been good for the Milwaukee Bucks. (PHOTO: Fortune Live Media via Wikimedia Commons)

NBA commissioner hasn't been good for the Milwaukee Bucks


In 1982 I was on a luxury bus taking me from a top-flight hotel to the NBA All-Star Game at the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Sitting next to me was this little Jewish guy with bad glasses and a very cute wife in a short skirt sitting on his lap. His wife asked, "Where do I go when we get there again?"

He snapped at her; "To the party. Go to the big party."

The man was David Stern, who was the legal counsel for the NBA at the time. He was the force behind creating an All-Star weekend that featured, indeed, a big party.

Just two years after that bus ride, the little guy from New Jersey became commissioner of the National Basketball Association. It was a league that generated little interest and little respect. Television networks showed some games, but many on a tape-delayed basis.

The year Stern took over the league also welcomed a rookie named Michael Jordan. Together they took a league that was an afterthought and turned it into a marketing superstar. They took a sport that didn't have much appeal for white folks and turned its stars into the biggest in the universe.

The year after Stern became commissioner Herb Kohl, a Milwaukee businessman, bought the Milwaukee Bucks. The influence of both men has had a significant impact on our city.

Kohl, of course, has been a loyal steward, trying year after year to build a winning team and battling against all offers to buy the team and move it to another city.

Stern, however, has not been a leading advocate for the Bucks. An argument could be made that he has a group of allies, younger big market owners, who are interested primarily in protecting their own interests.

While Stern will get credit for the globalization of the game of basketball, we in Milwaukee can look at the kind of things that would have helped our franchise over the decades.

The Bucks, indeed the entire league, would have been better served with some kind of meaningful revenue sharing. The NFL is the gold standard by which competitive balance has been achieved with strict revenue sharing. The Bucks could certainly have used some of that.

A hard salary cap that might have put a lid on some of these ridiculous salaries would certainly have helped make Milwaukee more competitive.

What we in Milwaukee can hope for when Adam Silver takes over as commissioner in 18 months, is for someone who understands that the strength of the league depends on the strength of all franchises, not just the big boys.

Kohl is likely to sell the team in the near future and he has said that his only condition is that the team stays in Milwaukee. He needs a commissioner who will back him up and help create a climate where a new owner can succeed in Milwaukee.

That's something that Stern has not done and we in this town aren't going to miss him when he finally goes away.


Talkbacks

PlayerGotGame | Nov. 5, 2012 at 7:01 a.m. (report)

My nephews all play HS ball now and their games are more exciting than the Bucks, largely because they all care. Stern's biggest failing at commish is that he allowed the players to become bigger than the game. Now the NBA is just a bunch of egomaniacs who plays the last 2-3 minutes. The rest of the game is just an effort to pad stats, especially in contract years.

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Myke | Oct. 31, 2012 at 11:07 p.m. (report)

Agree with jusbjdc. It is insultingly ignorant to say that Michael Jordan & Stern "took a league that was an afterthought and turned it into a marketing superstar." It was Magic & Bird primarily (and to a lesser extent Dr.J), that spearheaded the NBA into prime time. Stern had little or nothing to do with it. Jordan just carried the momentum that was already was well in play. It makes one marvel that anyone would pay for an article written by such an ignoramus.

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InTheView | Oct. 31, 2012 at 7:55 a.m. (report)

ok, what was the point of calling him a little Jewish guy? Couldn't you just call him a little white guy with a hot wife? Bringing his faith/ethnicity into the picture didn't do anything for the article.

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justbjdc | Oct. 31, 2012 at 7:46 a.m. (report)

A minor point in the article, but important to argue the Jordan / Stern era was not the cornerstone for the NBA's Rejuvination. Dr J, Magic and Bird had already laid the foundation for building an audience based on stars and personalities instead of teams. From the Apple II or IBM PC Jr giving us "One on One: Dr J vs Bird" to Jack Nicholson in the stands for every Boston vs LA matchup, the NBA was already well on its way to reaching its zenith of cool thanks to a few icons well before Jordan's last second jump shot over Craig Ehlo.

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