stern_bw_568On Saturday, David Stern stepped down as commissioner of the NBA to be succeeded by Adam Silver, his right-hand man and present deputy.

Some of us will cherish the day as change long overdue, others will watch on frightened at the idea of a league bereft of his veteran leader, and others, like me, will remember the day for what it should be remembered: a tribute.

To fully understand the impact and importance of David Stern The Commissioner, look no further than the table below:

The above numbers draw the perfect picture. During his 30-year reign, the league has witnessed a renaissance the kind you can only read of in 14th to 17th century history books.

In the 1980s, the perception, reputation, and image of the league lacked both honour and dignity. David Stern changed all that.

Today, NBA superstars are highly acclaimed throughout all corners of the globe, and the sport itself has rapidly spread to all cultural backgrounds. Such progress has favoured the rise in number of international players entering in the NBA, hence contributing to the international success we are now experiencing.

As the moniker of commissioner is passed on, David Stern exits with the aplomb of a 30-time All-Star, 30-time MVP, and 30-time NBA champion.

He has done all the hard work, all his successor has to do, is keep the ball rolling.

The Commissioner

At age 12, I remember following the 2003 Draft and becoming irritated at the trite draft pick intros carried out by this short, chubby, ordinary-looking middle-aged man who showed no difference in enthusiasm for first pick LeBron James than he did for now forgotten and then 30th pick, Maciej Lampe.

“And with the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft…and with the 30th pick of the 2003 NBA Draft…”

Since that experience, every time I saw David Stern on television screens, I couldn’t wait until he finished whatever he had to say, and the camera focus switched back to where it was supposed to be, the players, and the players alone.

Because I was too young and too ignorant to comprehend the role of a major league sport commissioner, I viewed him as an aloof, billionaire-boss who only cared about exploiting players’ talents to only benefit himself and his business partners. I saw him as an unworthy spokesman for the league whose only duty was to welcome rookies, give out awards, and show his face at the Finals. I used to ask myself: “How can a man who looks like he never played a game of organized basketball in his life, be the boss of the premier basketball league in the world?” I couldn’t see the point in David Stern.

If you tried to detect any personal characteristics in him, you’d find out that nothing awed him, that he addressed everything with discretion and modest smiles, and that is tone of voice never wavered. Even in the midst of a celebratory environment like the crowning of an NBA champion, David Stern always looked immune to what was happening around him. He just stood there, like a God, the God of the NBA.

As he hands over the keys to Adam Silver, I’m hoping that we’ll get to see a side of him we haven’t seen before. It is unlikely, but I want him to reveal to us which team he roots for, his favorite player, and see who he’d pick between MJ and LeBron. I want to pick his brain on the thirty years he has served as commissioner, not to hear about his accomplishments, but rather to know which Playoffs or Finals series he enjoyed watching the most. I’d like to sit down with him and have story time for hours and hours, only to stop when I run out of questions.

Bill Simmons, if you’re reading this, I basically just produced the next recording of the BS Report. You’re welcome.

Back to Stern, it is going to be hard getting used to a new face standing at the podium on draft night, a new voice announcing award winners at the end of All-Star games and NBA Finals; but as time passes, the essence of his work will diminish in value, just like it did with players like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. People will remember you, they will even rejoice at your memory, but eventually, the old will be replaced by the new, and all that will remain, is a legend.

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