David Stern's final act as NBA commissioner: Promote the myth of David Stern

Adrian Wojnarowski
Yahoo Sports

View gallery

.

David Stern will step down as NBA commissioner on Feb. 1, 2014. (AP)

The biggest ego in the history of the sport, the emperor of the NBA gets everything he ever wanted now: 15 months of farewells and bows; a tidy 30 years to fit onto his Hall of Fame plaque; and a chance to repair and repackage a legacy that NBA commissioner David Stern had slowly, surely lost the power to manipulate.

For all the public proclamations, here's been the overwhelming league response to Stern's decision to leave the job on Feb. 1, 2014: a long, exasperated sigh, and a wish that his successor, Adam Silver, would be taking over sooner.

Stern still has work to do; promoting the work of David Stern. Here comes his victory tour, the tender one-on-one sitdowns, the testimonials, basketball's favorite fable and bedtime story about how Stern made Magic and Bird in the 1980s, Jordan in the '90s, about how no one else ever would've landed big, fat television deals for people to watch them play basketball.

Stern has been an excellent, opportunistic businessman. He did not inspire those under him, but ruled them with fear. He's shown a good heart, too, advocated social change for greater goods. Through it all, Stern reveled in the intimidation of league office employees, referees, general managers, coaches and players. Most thought that's why Stern would stay on the job forever, because he seemed to get such pleasure out of it.

These 15 months aren't about Silver's transition into the commissioner's job, but Stern's elevation into the sport's almighty. Why now? After the world found out how Stern controls whose voice will be heard on his state-run television, he changed the conversation from people ridiculing his petty, self-centered management style to people exulting his vision.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of NBA.com]

After controlling NBA executives and the most influential of opinion shapers for so long, the truth about Stern – his volcanic temper and bullying and vindictiveness, the preferential treatment for his personal pets, the processes and protocols pushed aside to mete out justice and injustice, the manipulations of franchise and player movement, the heavy-heavy handed involvement in officiating – finally had found its way into the NBA's reporting and records.

View gallery

.

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver has been ratified as Stern's replacement in 2014. (Getty Images)

Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle, league sources said. He has become a strong ally of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's group to bring back the NBA there. Ballmer's group has been trying to get the Maloof family to sell the Sacramento Kings, so that the franchise can eventually play in a new arena in Seattle.

From the league office, pressure on the Maloofs to sell has been growing, sources said – just as hopes for a new Sacramento arena have been fading. Seattle Sonics fans will never forgive Stern for his complicit role in Clay Bennett's deception to move that franchise to Oklahoma City, but make no mistake: Stern desperately wants to return the NBA to one of its great markets and wants it for his own measure of vindication before he leaves office.

As one source involved in the process said, "Stern has enough time to get a team back to Seattle, but he'll let Silver deal with the crowd [booing] on opening night."

[Related: David Stern stepping down as NBA commissioner in 2014]

The propaganda machine out of Olympic Tower will go into overdrive to pitch Stern's narrative as the sport's historic marketer, the grower of the global game and the visionary responsible for turning the NBA's stars into the planet's most popular athletes. The league office has always fought so much harder to protect Stern's image than it did those of its players. Stan Van Gundy didn't get muscled out of a TV job because Stern feared he would be hard on the players.

Stern has carefully cultivated Silver as his replacement, thrusting him onto the frontlines of the labor fight, the influential committees, and giving him the chance to get close with the power-broking younger owners to make sure Silver's ratification would come easily. Most of all, Stern made sure that the next commissioner owed him, owed his legacy, and that no outsider would ever come into Olympic Tower and unleash old secrets of how business had been done.

For those wishing to talk out of school on Stern once he leaves office, they understand: Even if Stern can't hurt them anymore, Silver has his back.

Most owners and executives support Silver's promotion and believe he has the ability to change the way the league office operates. As one high-ranking league office employee has told me, the owners want less centralized and more local power in the post-Stern era. Give Stern this: He was a force of nature, but his style – his belief that he could bully those inside the NBA, those in basketball federations around the world – is over. He knew it, and that makes it easier for him to go. The information age has made tyranny harder to manage across the globe, and that's true within Stern's NBA too.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Adrian Wojnarowski discusses David Stern's legacy]

Over the summer, Stern consulted no one when he publicly raised the idea of changing Olympic basketball to an under-23 tournament, sources said. His underlings didn't know he would go public with it – FIBA, no one. He was David Stern, and he wanted to show the owners who wanted change that he could still sell a big idea on their behalf.

"He misjudged it badly," one prominent international basketball official told Yahoo! Sports. "He didn't think about the consequences or the fallout. He still thought he could say something and it would get done."

Stern dropped the fight fast, leaving Silver to take the grief of the owners who want an international basketball system where they control the NBA's great talent. Between now and Feb. 1, 2014, Stern's embarking on the longest victory lap in the history of professional sports, and he'll finally let Basketball Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo induct him. Stern runs that, too. Want to get into the Hall, Stern snaps his fingers and the committees vote the way he wants them to vote.

So here comes the emperor now, sleeping well in the understanding that the future of the NBA is secure because Adam Silver promises to make sure anything Stern doesn't want revealed about these past three decades of totalitarian rule comes out with a steep price and punishment to pay. From the beach and someday the grave, Stern will have this league rigged for his legacy forever and ever. The fear and loathing of David Stern will never end, and perhaps that's what he's always wanted.

Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
Kobe fesses up to love for 'Sex and the City'
UCLA freshman star Muhammad out 2 to 4 weeks
Lolo Jones makes U.S. bobsled team just weeks after first attempt
Y! News: Man robbed of $2 million in gold; $15k reward offered

  • Wright-Phillips leads Red Bulls past Dynamo 4-0

    Wright-Phillips leads Red Bulls past Dynamo 4-0

    Maybe just a touch of the flu is what New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips needed. The English forward, who had one goal in seven games last season, missed Tuesday's training session with a fever, but recovered enough to score three … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 minutes ago
  • Josh McRoberts floors LeBron James with forearm to throat late in Heat's Game 2 win over Bobcats (Video)

    Josh McRoberts floors LeBron James with forearm to throat late in Heat's Game 2 win over Bobcats (Video)

    The Charlotte forward send the reigning MVP to the deck holding his throat, but came away with a common personal foul. … More »

    Ball Don't Lie - 12 minutes ago
  • Student leaders propose rewrite of fight song 'Utah Man'

    By Jennifer Dobner SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - Student leaders at the University of Utah, the flagship public campus in the conservative state, are pressing to change the school's century-old fight song "Utah Man," saying it needs to be more … More »

    Reuters - 13 minutes ago
  • Keith Thurman isn't sulking after falling victim to boxing politics

    Keith Thurman isn't sulking after falling victim to boxing politics

    Thurman isn't a big-enough name yet to get the fights he wants, but that won't impact his performance Saturday. … More »

    Yahoo Sports - 14 minutes ago
  • Brewers' bats wake up in win over Padres

    Brewers' bats wake up in win over Padres

    Jean Segura hit a three-run homer, and the Milwaukee Brewers broke out of an offensive slumber at home to support Kyle Lohse in a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night. Khris Davis added a solo shot for the Brewers, who have won five … More »

    AP - Sports - 15 minutes ago
  • Perreault scores off the back of Maroon

    Perreault scores off the back of Maroon

    Anaheim Ducks forward Mathieu Perreault launches his shot off the back of Patrick Maroon for the goal on Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 17 minutes ago
  • Bryan Allen launches a laser behind Lehtonen

    Bryan Allen launches a laser behind Lehtonen

    Anaheim Ducks defensemen Bryan Allen fires a laser slap shot past Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen for the first goal of the night. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 17 minutes ago
  • Jamie Benn scores on out of zone faceoff

    Jamie Benn scores on out of zone faceoff

    Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn scores directly off a faceoff outside the blue line against Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 17 minutes ago
  • Heat hold off Bobcats 101-97, go up 2-0

    Heat hold off Bobcats 101-97, go up 2-0

    LeBron James drove to the rim as time was winding down, got clobbered by Josh McRoberts and sat on the hardwood gathering himself for a few seconds afterward. Miami took Charlotte's best shot, and survived. James scored 32 points and added eight … More »

    AP - Sports - 19 minutes ago
  • Heat escape: Miami goes up 2-0 in East 1st-round series, tops Charlotte 101-97

    Heat escape: Miami goes up 2-0 in East 1st-round series, tops Charlotte 101-97

    MIAMI - LeBron James drove to the rim as time was winding down, got clobbered by Josh McRoberts and sat on the hardwood gathering himself for a few seconds afterward. Miami took Charlotte's best shot, and survived. James scored 32 points and added … More »

    The Canadian Press - 20 minutes ago
  • Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets - 04/23/2014

    Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets - 04/23/2014

    Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets - 04/23/2014 … More »

    NHL Highlights - 20 minutes ago
  • Benzema strike gives Real Madrid edge over holders Bayern Munich

    Benzema strike gives Real Madrid edge over holders Bayern Munich

    By Iain Rogers MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid struck early through Karim Benzema and comfortably held Bayern Munich at bay to beat the holders 1-0 on Wednesday and move a step closer to a first Champions League final in 12 years. Chasing a … More »

    Reuters - 22 minutes ago
  • Stars beat Ducks 4-2, even series at 2

    Stars beat Ducks 4-2, even series at 2

    DALLAS (AP) -- Cody Eakin and Alex Goligoski scored on Dallas' first two shots in the third period and the Stars beat the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Wednesday in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series that is all even now. … More »

    AP - Sports - 23 minutes ago
  • Pineda ejected for substance on neck

    Pineda ejected for substance on neck

    Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected for using a foreign substance less than two weeks after appearing to get away with it in another game against Boston, and the Red Sox beat New York 5-1 on Wednesday night. The right-hander was thrown out … More »

    AP - Sports - 23 minutes ago
  • Mavs rout Spurs 113-92, even series at 1

    Mavs rout Spurs 113-92, even series at 1

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Monta Ellis scored 21 points and the Dallas Mavericks rolled to a 113-92 victory over San Antonio on Wednesday night, snapping a 10-game skid against the Spurs and evening their first-round series at a game apiece. … More »

    AP - Sports - 24 minutes ago
  • Wednesday's Scoreboard

    Wednesday's Games … More »

    The Canadian Press - 26 minutes ago
  • Fiddler fits puck in tight window on Andersen

    Fiddler fits puck in tight window on Andersen

    Dallas Stars forward Vernon Fiddler gets the puck on an odd man rush and buries it into a tight window past Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 28 minutes ago
  • Fiddler’s brilliant dish sets up Goligoski

    Fiddler’s brilliant dish sets up Goligoski

    Dallas Stars forward Vernon Fiddler sends a great pass to Alex Goligoski who buries his shot past Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 28 minutes ago
  • Roussel and Perry scrap in the 3rd

    Roussel and Perry scrap in the 3rd

    Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel and Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry scrap late in the third period. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 28 minutes ago
  • Nationals score 4 in 9th to beat Angels

    Nationals score 4 in 9th to beat Angels

    Adam LaRoche's tiebreaking RBI single off the first pitch from Fernando Salas capped a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Washington Nationals came back to beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-4 Wednesday night to avoid a sweep. Los … More »

    AP - Sports - 28 minutes ago
  • Indians trip Royals 5-3

    Indians trip Royals 5-3

    Jason Kipnis drove in Nick Swisher with a two-out double in the seventh inning, sending the Cleveland Indians to a 5-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night. Kipnis ripped his double off Kelvin Herrera (0-1) into the gap in … More »

    AP - Sports - 31 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Kidd-Gilchrist and Walker

    Postgame: Kidd-Gilchrist and Walker

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker address the media following the Game 2 loss to the Heat. … More »

    NBA.com - 31 minutes ago
  • Lin to Howard

    Lin to Howard

    Jeremy Lin throws it up and Dwight Howard smashes down the alley-oop jam. … More »

    NBA.com - 31 minutes ago
  • Duda homers, Mets hold off Cardinals

    Duda homers, Mets hold off Cardinals

    Lucas Duda hit a long home run and the New York Mets threw out the potential tying run at the plate in the ninth inning to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Wednesday night with a stiff wind whipping through Citi Field. Jonathon Niese earned his … More »

    AP - Sports - 32 minutes ago
  • Simon, Bruce lead Reds past Pirates 5-2

    Simon, Bruce lead Reds past Pirates 5-2

    Alfredo Simon pitched into the seventh inning despite erratic control, Jay Bruce drove in a run for a fifth consecutive game and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 Wednesday night. Simon has pitched at least six innings in each of … More »

    AP - Sports - 33 minutes ago
  • Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

    Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

    Michael Phelps is making a comeback after nearly two years out of the pool for the simplest of reasons: He missed the sport that has been his entire life. ''Looking at a black line for hours on end, I don't know what made me do it,'' he said … More »

    AP - Sports - 33 minutes ago
  • Bobcats vs. Heat: Game 2

    Bobcats vs. Heat: Game 2

    LeBron James scores 32 points and adds eight assists, Chris Bosh scores 20 points and the Heat beat the Bobcats 101-97 to take a 2-0 series lead. … More »

    NBA.com - 34 minutes ago
  • Cruz hits 2 homers as Orioles beat Jays

    Cruz hits 2 homers as Orioles beat Jays

    Nelson Cruz hit two of Baltimore's season-high four home runs, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters also connected and the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-8 Wednesday night. Cruz hit a solo homer off Dustin McGowan in the third and a grand slam off … More »

    AP - Sports - 37 minutes ago
  • Marc-Andre Fleury makes two gaffes, Blue Jackets rally to win Game 4

    Marc-Andre Fleury makes two gaffes, Blue Jackets rally to win Game 4

    Yes, he made 42 saves in the game, as the Blue Jackets desperately peppered him in a fight for their playoff lives on Wednesday night. But it’s the two he didn’t make with 24 seconds left in regulation and 2:49 into overtime that cost the Penguins … More »

    Puck Daddy - 43 minutes ago
  • Canadian Curling’s 2013-2014 season: Top 10 stories

    Canadian Curling’s 2013-2014 season: Top 10 stories

    What an incredible, outlandish season. Packed with memorable on-ice action, the curling landscape was also filled with off-ice intrigue. Here are my top ten Canadian curling stories of the year. 10. This means war. OCA and CCA clash An ugly, … … More »

    Eh Game - 46 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Erik Spoelstra

    Postgame: Erik Spoelstra

    Erick Spoelstra addresses the media following the Game 2 win over the Bobcats. … More »

    NBA.com - 49 minutes ago
  • Dubinsky forces OT, Foligno wins it in Blue Jackets' 4-3 comeback vs. Penguins to tie series

    Dubinsky forces OT, Foligno wins it in Blue Jackets' 4-3 comeback vs. Penguins to tie series

    COLUMBUS, Ohio - Brandon Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Nick Foligno's wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh … More »

    The Canadian Press - 51 minutes ago
  • Full Nelson: Cruz belts grand slam as Orioles outscore Blue Jays 10-8

    TORONTO - Nelson Cruz hit two home runs — including a grand slam — as the Baltimore Orioles outscored the Toronto Blue Jays 10-8 on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre. Chris Davis and Matt Wieters also homered for the Orioles, who came back from an … More »

    The Canadian Press - 51 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Steve Clifford

    Postgame: Steve Clifford

    Steve Clifford addresses the media following the Game 2 loss to the Heat. … More »

    NBA.com - 52 minutes ago
  • Robinson Blocks Harden

    Robinson Blocks Harden

    Thomas Robinson hustles back for the big block on James Harden at the rim. … More »

    NBA.com - 52 minutes ago
  • Australia's Beale needs surgery, but will keep playing

    Australia's Beale needs surgery, but will keep playing

    Kurtley Beale needs surgery to remove a bone spur from his foot but the Australia utility back plans to delay the operation and keep on playing until he gets some off from rugby or the pain becomes unbearable. The 25-year-old limped off during last … More »

    Reuters - 57 minutes ago
  • Nick Foligno rips the OT winner past Fleury

    Nick Foligno rips the OT winner past Fleury

    Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno rips a distant shot past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to win the game in overtime for the Jackets. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 58 minutes ago
  • Down 3 goals, Jackets top Penguins in OT

    Down 3 goals, Jackets top Penguins in OT

    Brandon Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Nick Foligno's wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday … More »

    AP - Sports - 58 minutes ago
  • 'Grandfather' Phelps plays down Rio prospects

    'Grandfather' Phelps plays down Rio prospects

    By Julian Linden PHOENIX (Reuters) - Michael Phelps is playing down expectations about his return to competitive swimming but the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a mind-boggling 18 gold medals, is finding it tough to sell himself as an … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 5 minutes ago
  • Semien's slam gets White Sox past Tigers

    Semien's slam gets White Sox past Tigers

    On the night he became the franchise's career leader in total bases, Paul Konerko liked what he saw from some of the younger Chicago White Sox. Marcus Semien's seventh-inning grand slam lifted the White Sox over the Detroit Tigers 6-4 Wednesday … More »

    AP - Sports - 8 minutes ago