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A Stern Farewell: Sonics Rising Says Goodbye to David Stern

With David Stern retiring in less than 24 hours, the staff at Sonics Rising felt it was appropriate to say goodbye the only way they knew how to say goodbye.

Edited by Joanna Nesgoda


Everyone knows the story of how David Stern aided the stealing of the Supersonics from Seattle. He was slighted by Frank Chopp and that was enough for him to write off Seattle forever as an NBA town. Once Clay Bennett purchased the team from Howard Schultz, the skids were greased and perjury be damned, the Sonics were not staying in Seattle. It didn't matter how hard we fought or what we did as fans, there was nothing we could do. We used our infamous vocal cords to make as much noise as possible to draw as much attention to the injustice that was happening in our city as we could nationally. With a smug smile and a dismissive wave of his hand Seattle was left in his rear view mirror forever.

The only thing that I will bring up from the Kings situation is how he started the press conference:

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

Stern knew this was going to be the final time he would have all the microphones from Seattle in front of him and he wanted to stick that dagger into our hearts just one more time and twist.

Mr. Stern, I appreciate everything that you have done to improve the game that I love so much. I was one of those people who swore they would stop watching, but that lasted a whole two weeks.

I choose not to watch or hold the NBA with hatred like so many others that I know. Instead I watch some of the best athletes in the world play the most beautiful game ever created and I remember the times I watched Sonics games on PPV back in Aberdeen. I remember the first game I ever went to live that my dad took me to in the Kingdome, which happened to be against the Blazers, and being able to finally be well enough off to afford to buy my dad and myself second row tickets to a game against the Timberwolves in the Sonics final season.

These are my memories. This is my happiness. These are things that you will never be able to touch, never be able to relocate, never be able to take away from me.

So to you, Mr. Stern, farewell. You know I don't even know why I'm on this piece, you aren't on my level. I'm going to let my staff ride on you.


The majority of the other writers on this fine blog have already outlined the biggest mistake of David Stern's career: allowing the Sonics to be taken away from Seattle. So allow me to cape-up for David Stern for a moment.

Depending on where you rank former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, David Stern is either the best or second-best commissioner in the history of professional sports. Without Stern, the game of basketball wouldn't be anywhere near as popular as what it is today on the national and global stages. Hell, the NBA may have died of cocaine overdose in the 80's had it not been for Stern.

Some of Stern's greatest accomplishments include helping the NBA and ABA merge in 1976 as assistant commissioner, inking the big money TV deals, globalizing the game (see also: Dream Team), promoting diversity, supporting women's basketball with the WNBA, helping America understand the HIV-AIDS virus in the early 90's and a dozen of other accomplishments that I could write about for days.

Again, the NBA wouldn't be the second biggest global sport today (soccer being first) if not for David Stern.

Think about this for a second. The 1980 NBA Finals were shown on tape delay, and now networks are bidding billions of dollars to televise games.

And then think about this. During his tenure as commissioner, Stern never lost a full season due to labor disputes. Can MLB or the NHL say that about their commissioners? No.

Perhaps Stern's legacy can be best summed up this way: Stern is leaving the league in much better shape now than how it was when he entered it.

When Stern took over as commissioner, the NBA was in a bad place. The NBA was labeled as "just a black league" and was overrun with cocaine, tape delays and money problems.

Now? Basketball is the second most popular sport in the world, the NBA's TV revenue is valued at around a billion dollars, the league welcomes players from all across the globe and has a far better public perception than it had in 1984.

Still, with all of Stern's accomplishments it is hard to ignore the situations that he mishandled. A few coming to mind being the Tim Donaghy scandal, the Chris Paul trade and of course, the robbery of the Seattle Supersonics.

When it's all said and done though, Stern's accomplishments immensely outweigh the bad marks on his career. It's a fact and there isn't really a debate.

So while Stern can be credited with driving the vehicle that took the NBA out of the cocaine and tape delay days to the popular global game it is today, he can also take blame for some of his mistakes. Stern wasn't driving the vehicle that took the Sonics from Seattle; that was Clay Bennett. But, Stern was riding shotgun.
-Mitch Northam

David Stern's presence throughout the years in Seattle has, on balance, been filled with smarmy comments, threats, and the theft of a franchise.

NBA and its fans in Seattle will be better off without you.

Don't let the door hit ya' where the good Lord done split ya'.

Done, stick a fork in him.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

David Stern's retirement marks a new day in the NBA. A new chance for children everywhere to enjoy the highest level of an amazing sport, one that has been denied them in so many locales. A new chance for Seattle fans to see the return of the Supersonics. May the green and gold fly high again in our fair city! The end of so many dark years draws nigh. It's so close, you can feel it. And then we'll party like it's 1979.
-Jeremy Ward aka Speedcat

I believe David Stern's 30+ year tenure will have one lasting legacy: he made his league successful by selling the names on the back of the jerseys instead of the front.

Foreseeing the rise of a society that worships celebrity via mass media and recreating the NBA athlete-as-celebrity was canny.

Before Stern, guys like Dr. J and Rick Barry were popular, sure, but nowhere near the heights that Magic, Bird, and MJ took it to with greater exposure.

Given the drug-addled, scandal-plagued mess the league was in when he took it over, I grudgingly have to give him credit for that.

However, the second half of his tenure was dogged by legitimate concerns with player conduct, officiating scandals, questionable franchise relocations, and a business model reliant on subsidy, extortion and self-serving justification. And also Stern's own realization that he wielded more influence and power over his sport than other commissioners, and his eagerness to use that influence and power to his own ends rather than the best interest of the game he was tasked with overseeing.

I can think of no better and more fitting epitaph to David Stern's tenure as NBA commissioner than the words of Lord Acton. Everyone is familiar with the first part of the quote, but the whole rings true:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it."
-Steve Stearns

As horrible as it is to say, even though I considered myself a basketball fan, I didn't really know what David Stern looked like--and I still accidentally call him Howard Stern--until 2007, that dreadful year for Sonics fans. I know some people in other parts of the country take the comments of those of us in the upper left corner of the continental United States as whiny and ask us "Why can't you just get over it??" Here's why we (or at least I) can't "just get over it": Yes, Clay Bennett's purchase and subsequent move of our (OUR) SuperSonics was shady, and it still angers me to no end. But one of the major reasons I just can't move on is because of how Howard, I mean David, Stern treated it: with that stupid SMIRK on his face all the time. He allowed Clay Bennett to move our team, and whenever there was outrage from Seattle fans or media, he just SMIRKED. He smirked at our protests; he smirked at our rallies; he smirked IN THE FACE of our reporters, laughed at them, made jokes at their expense, made them look like idiots, then joked--on the record!--about his camaraderie with Bennett. There was absolutely no impartiality or open-mindedness from him. Even as the years went on, he continued to SMIRK at us and MOCK our reporters who DARED ask him about getting a team back in Seattle. Why can't *we* just get over it and move on? Because *Stern* didn't, either. At some point in history, perhaps in a past life, we must have done something to seriously make him mad because he obviously had it out for us, and was never willing to be an adult and move on. As long as Stern was in office, he made the rest of the NBA world know that Seattle and its fans were nothing but a joke. I might have been able to move on from our robbery by now if it weren't for that damned smirk all the time, even five and six years later. So in answer to the question "How has David Stern changed your franchise?" I answer "He let it be stolen, then laughed in our faces." Good riddance.
-Tiffany Villigan

The job of a commissioner is to represent the interests of the owners and I'm sure that the owners, with exception of maybe Mark Cuban, will remember David Stern fondly. David Stern made his decisions with their interests in mind and did a fantastic job of raising the value of NBA franchises for these individuals and ownership groups. Writing from the perspective of a Sonics fan, I found many of his methods for growth to be deplorable- especially his use of relocation to strong arm fan bases and local governments into financing teams and stadiums that would benefit the owners more than the fans. While the NBA grew to be a significantly larger entity and is poised for more growth, I don't know if the NBA is more fun because of David Stern's tenure. David Stern has done his best to suck as much personality out of the game as possible by imposing strict dress codes and fining players for criticizing referees, doing "obscene" dances or even just goofing around on court ($50,000 for untying shoes!?!). We will remember David Stern coming out to choruses of Boos at the NBA draft and we will remember him not caring. David Stern didn't care about the opinions of the fans so long as they were buying tickets and jerseys. David Stern didn't really care about the players who he locked out twice during his tenure to limit their take of the cash so long as they played. David Stern could smile in the face of a thousand boos because all he could hear where the cheers of the 30 owners who were raking in the dough with him at the helm.
-Carl Powers

Throughout the Stern era, I have been a casual NBA fan at best. It was not until the hope of the Sonics coming back to the great city of Seattle did I start paying attention to Commissioner Stern. Rightly or wrongly, I will only remember him for his disgusting use of Seattle as leverage to extort over $600 Million from Sacramento. It is disappointing to see that the NBA rewards deceptive tactics used by Clay Bennett in the kidnapping of the Sonics (buy first, move later) versus the transparent nature that Chris Hansen used in his bid for the Sacramento Kings (buy with the intent to move). There are several NBA teams that I respect and admire but Chris Hansen is the only one that can restore my fandom in the NBA.
-John Barr

How Has David Stern Changed Our Franchise? You mean besides giving Clay Bennett the assistance in the heist of our team? Perhaps you're referring to how he straddled the line between intervention and collusion when the Hansen group reached an agreement with the Maloof family to buy the Sacramento Kings?

Maybe you're referring to his constant jabs at our city via comments about how poor Key Arena was/is, his timely "resolve" to keep the Kings in Sacramento, his refusal to acknowledge his lack of support when we lost the Sonics, and his refusal to even speak concerning the assurance of an expansion team?

David Joel Stern didn't change our franchise. He changed our city. He ripped out our hearts, handed them to Clay Bennett and Vivek Ranadivé, watched us die and smirked the entire time. Yes we are stronger, yes we will have a team one day, but it's no thanks to the arrogant, hypocritical, self-interested, visionary, mastermind. Good riddance.

Thank You,
Dontae Delgado

I grew up as a more casual sports fan than many of you, and I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the man behind the curtain of the entertaining NBA machine. David Stern was vaguely familiar to me, and I had heard a few mentions of him as an ambitious guy. However, moving to Seattle put him on my radar in a big way-especially when I started dating this Kevin dude I would eventually marry :).

I went to one game at KeyArena, in the last year that it hosted the Sonics. I loved the energy I felt, and couldn't believe that Seattle was a city that would be without an NBA team-at least not for long. I was in pretty deep denial that the team would really move in the end, and I was confident that if it did there would be an expansion team soon after. I would never have imagined the situation as it is currently.

After I met Kevin, I had an up close view to the passion of Seattle basketball fans. Kevin was so crushed by the fate of his team. I spent many nights listening to him reminisce about what the NBA had meant to him growing up and how he had bonded with his father at games. As he told me the ins and outs of the team's relocation saga, I began to see the intersection of politics, capitalism and the domineering presence that was the NBA commissioner. It seemed to me that something so big and synonymous with a city should not be so easily relocated, and yet the Sonics left under Stern's watch without a hint of the loyalty I assumed Seattle would have accumulated with him. His smug smirks left a dry taste in my mouth, and I felt hollow when I thought of the NBA; I had assumed the man running things was a megafan, and ruining that image was depressing.

Stern became the man that broke the heart of the city I had come to love, and the heart of the man I loved too. Often when I hear his name, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, the way I do when I'm hoping to protect someone I love from something that I know will crush them.

Stern's impact on (and unraveling of) my franchise was an obvious low point in his tenure as commissioner. Once he's gone, I hope my stomach can stop sinking.
-Joanna Nesgoda

What can I say about Little Napoleon? He fights for the fan bases in Charlotte, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, and Milwaukee, but not ours. Never ours. Why? He got insulted by some politicians and decided to take it out on us. It's not just that he helped leverage the Sonics' way out of town. It's the attitude. If he would've simply chosen not to say things like "I've got a game to get to in Oklahoma City" at every step of the way, I might cut him more slack. Unfortunately, he has chosen to be a vindictive little man for several years now and has no interest in making amends. Good riddance.
-Paul Rogers

My David Stern memory is one of standing en masse in front of the King County Courthouse, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of Sonics fans, not to mention Gary Payton, Xavier McDaniel and Spencer Hawes, chanting "Save our Sonics" until our throats were hoarse. A sea of green and gold waiting for Clayton Bennett before finding out he snuck out the back door.

My memory is one of the last game at KeyArena against the Dallas Mavericks. The same sea of green and gold, still chanting even after the game was over. No one would leave because everyone knew what that meant. Seeing that evoked goosebumps and tears at the same time.

David Stern didn't take my team, but he created a shroud of darkness in which Clayton Bennett was allowed to sneak away. He lied, cheated and stole to help usher 41 years of history and a Larry O'Brien trophy out the door. That is my memory of David Stern. And for that, I will never forgive him.
-Taylor Bartle

Let me personally thank you,Commissioner, for turning me into the activist I have become. I never knew I could advocate so strongly for something I cared about, until you took it from me. I never knew that I could have so much energy, and will not rest until the wrong of you taking our Sonics is righted. Thank you for helping me discover the strength and the passion I never knew I had.
-Sonics Guy

Under David Stern, it's hard to deny that the NBA has made significant strides. Between the league becoming more commercial and international, Stern has been what one could consider a progressive leader. However, as a younger fan, what I remember most are the more controversial changes like the dress code, the microfiber ball, and the the draft age restriction. Going even further, as a Seattle Sonics fan, it is hard to disassociate Stern with his support for the relocation of the team. Simply put, for that, I will always hold him with anger and disdain.
-Max Churaisin

The words "soured multiple generations to the NBA" should make the cut. The Seattle region could strongly be considered pro-Sonics, anti-NBA after being burned multiple times this past decade.

"The bridges he didn't burn by being actively involved in the theft of a team, aborting a 41 year legacy, he burned later with smug and snide comments."
-Chris Meirose

According to my calendar, it looks like your retirement is coming to fruition this weekend. Let's take a brief look back into your career. Since 1984, you have had a lottery conspiracy, sending Patrick Ewing to the Knicks. How many championships have they won? Four teams have relocated cities, including our beloved Sonics. Would five have been terrible? Chris Hansen offered to nearly double the price to purchase one of the most underachieving franchises in NBA history. How many championships have they won? Every team you have influenced is cursed!

From a marketability standpoint, the NBA is left in great hands. Though it is unfortunate that Adam Silver will have to come in to clean up the mess, I believe he will make things right. The arrogance and deceitfulness will not be missed. When the NBA comes back to Seattle, you will not be welcomed here. As matter of fact, we do not want you here. Kevin Durant will always and forever be drafted to, and Rookie of the Year for the Seattle Sonics. Have fun playing Apples-to-Apples with Vivek Ranadive, Clayton Bennett, and Howard Shultz.

Don't let the Legion of Boom hit you on your way out of the office.
-Jerome Johnson