Some Crazy Speculation on Draft Night 2013
In a little less than a year – February 1st, 2014 to be exact – David Stern will retire from his post as NBA commissioner after an overwhelmingly successful 30 year reign. Stern’s marketing driven sports philosophy propelled the league from near extinction into an insanely lucrative global brand. The poster child (quite literally) for Stern’s multi-decade strategy is Charlotte Bobcats’ owner and G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan, who ruled both the court and the cameras during the league’s exponential growth period during the ’90s. Stern created the conditions for an international phenomenon like MJ to exist and Jordan took full advantage, elevating the game and league to heights Stern quite possibly couldn’t have imagined.
Which brings us to Thursday, June 27th 2013: David Stern’s final NBA Draft. It is the one night of the NBA year in which Stern himself is the center of attention and it represents a perfect PR opportunity to do some final executive housecleaning:
The Commissioner struts out from backstage to a roar of ironic boos and earnest applause, handling it in style with his trademark smirk and snark. He thanks the fans, the players, the owners, everyone involved in the league for making it what it is today. Then a surprise: “Before I go, I’d like to welcome a new friend into the Association.” Tom Benson joins him at the podium with a freshly minted New Orleans Pelicans jersey. Smiles and handshakes. “And I’d also like to use this opportunity to welcome back some old friends.” Steve Balmer (or one of his minions) joins the group with a crisp Supersonics size 48. “After a brief hiatus, we’d like to officially welcome Seattle back to the NBA.” More smiles and handshakes, cheers from the crowd. Stern lets the moment linger… “Speaking of old friends…”
The one and only, Michael Jordan struts in from stage right holding a jersey of his own. Nearly thirty years later to the date, Stern and MJ shake hands at the Draft podium for a second time. “Michael, it’s been an amazing run.” Crowd going nuts. Jordan unveils the teal and purple. “Finally, we’d like to welcome the Hornets back to their home in Charlotte.” Boom.
A former player – an African-American mega-star – standing equally alongside two white billionaires and a Jewish attorney representing the NBA’s past, present and future – this is Stern-ian theatrics at its best.
Crazy speculation? Certainly. Does it fit with the Commissioner’s thirty year modus opperandi? Without a doubt.
Finally: Just as ESPN’s cameras cut away, Stern leans into the microphone, turns towards MJ: “Michael, your team is up, the clock’s ticking down. Some things never change.”