Monday, December 11th, 2006 at 6:00 pm  |  35 responses

Deck the Balls with Boughs of Leather!

How the David Stern Robot ditched the microfiber and went back to leather.

by Lang Whitaker

You are the David Stern Robot, and the holiday season is fast approaching. People around the world have widely recognized you as the most adept commissioner in all of sports, perhaps not realizing you are actually a robot programmed to always make the correct decision in any and every circumstance.

But lately, your circuits have felt crossed. You instituted a dress code a year ago that drew derision at the time, only to be forgotten months later. This year you asked the referees to be more strict with their rule interpretations, which resulted in a flurry of techincal fouls. And then there was the ball. After decades using leather basketballs, you decided to make a switch to a new “microfiber” ball. And people hated it. This was more than dislike, this was pure, clean hate.

Fans didn’t seem to mind one way or another (in fact, reports from your staff said that the new ball was selling well), but the players were ticked. So you mentioned that the ball had undergone rigorous testing, only to have the testers — Mark Jackson, Reggie Miller, Steve Kerr, etc. — come out and say the testing was a five-minute dribbling session one afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The players moaned and complained. The ball was causing paper cuts on their hands, they said. Wimps, you thought, I’ll show you paper cuts. Cousy crapped bigger than you, Nash.

And then one fine Friday afternoon, a man showed up at your office and handed you a lawsuit. Really? A lawsuit? Yes, a lawsuit. The players couldn’t take it any more, and that damn Billy Hunter and the Player’s Association went to the courts to get a new ball. Friggin’ Hunter. Why couldn’t we handle this like men and fight this out in the parking lot, you thought. Hunter would be no match for your superhuman robotic strength. You’d break him, just like you did Gourdine before him and Grantham before him.

Still, the complaints kept coming. Shaq, Kidd, Nash — those wussies! Weird things happened — balls getting stuck between the rim and glass twice in a quarter, balls losing their grip after 15 minutes of dribbling, Vince Carter making jump shots. Whatever, you thought. This is my League, and the players don’t like the ball they can go play in the ABA.

And then this morning, as your driver tooled down 5th Avenue in your S600, you saw a little boy drop a nickel in a Salvation Army kettle, and you saw a smile brighten the child’s face.

Deep inside that metallic torso of yours, something caught. It must be a rusty gear, you thought. But it wouldn’t go away. You felt, for the first time ever, what you had heard described as emotions. You sublimated them, tried to get through the day without thinking about it, but it wouldn’t go away. That boy, that smile…maybe you could feel something like that, too? Probably not, but heck, maybe it was worth a try?

So you picked up the phone and called Hunter.

“Billy? David. Yeah…no, not Robinson, Stern, David Stern. Right. The commissioner. Anyway, calling to let you know I’ve decided we can go back to the old ball. Mm-hmm. Yes, the leather one. Oh…I don’t know…how about January 1? OK, let’s shoot for then. Yeah, we’ll leak it to Stein or someone and get the word out there, and then that’s it. And I am not caving on the technical foul stuff. What? You want input on this stuff from now on? Don’t push it, Billy. Right. OK, Yeah, my best to your family, too.”

“Oh, and Billy? Happy holidays.”

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  • Sparker

    in the 2nd person, no less. tom wolfe would be proud.

  • The Latvian

    wow was not expecting that… I actually played with the new ball this summer and liked it, but others absolutely hated it… good, the players can stop complaining and focus on the game

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    I’m actually wearing a white suit today.

  • One Angry Knick Fan

    So among the talk of rule changes, did Stern claim it’s now acceptable to wear white after Labor Day?

  • Chris

    I am glad they went back to the old ball, but who knows how long that will last until they develop some new form of composite that the players are going to complain about.

  • Tom Jackson

    You wear suits at the Dome, Lang? Wait… you wear white suits?

  • http://www.zio.ch/sport Darksaber

    Yesssssss! Darth Stern must be losing his command of the dark arts… didn’t even crush anyone’s trachea on this occasion. So when do Melo, Gilbert0, and all the superscorers start complaining about the non grippiness of the old ball hmm?

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    I knew I shouldn’t have made a Tom Wolfe reference…

  • cjclean

    Did anyone hear Colin Cowherd BASH SLAM Magazine today on his ESPN Radio show? It was pretty hilarious.

  • scott

    cjclean: What did colin say?

  • http://slamonline.com Sam Rubenstein

    Colin Cowherd is the worst, SLAM hater or not. I tjought they gave his spot to Max Kellerman.

  • http://slamonline.com mutoni

    i’ll start caring about what colin cowherd has to say the day he stops getting his radio material from blogs.


    eh…the new ball did feel weird

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    serious breaking news indeed. Stern admitting defeat is somewhat shocking. although i’ve believed he’s smart enough to run a successful league.

  • Sparker

    my bad

  • Ekam

    lol dont enyone noe that david sterns racist now ever since he used jordan to make the nba look better he got pissed at all the black players doing soo good and he never got one white guy to come into the nba from highschool they were all black. Who gets the most technicals? black people? like Rasheed wallace ben wallace ron artest and Kenyon martin. Ive onli seen like 4 guys get technicals so David Stern tried making the Nba harder for these black players he knew they would argue but now there getting kicked out for taking there head bands off and throwing em on the ground like MELO did. THE NEW BALL is fuked up maybe he knew it was fuked up so he did that fo the BLACK guys. Im not racist but look at all the shit against black ppl wit his new rules

  • Ekam

    PR wat

  • John D.

    Ekam, I worked with special needs children this past summer and all of them made more sense than you.

  • Théo

    Damn Lang, this one gets right up in your best top 5 posts ever!!!!

  • KMG

    “Cousy crapped bigger than you, Nash”…that line made me bust out laughing. Another Lang Whitaker classic.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    What’s a Colin Cowherd? By the way fellas, that new game ball I picked up at the office last week? That’s gonna send my kids to college one of these years. Thanks!

  • TC

    great post Lang, some hilarious lines right there……

    I haven’t tried the new ball and I thought that players are just whiners until I heard about the new ball giving them paper cuts on their fingers. That reminded me that I played with some cheap basketball with rubber surface when I was younger and my fingers would got cut up and bled badly. I remembered taping the tip of my fingers (except for the thumbs) to play ball for a couple summers. People thought that I was weird as hell and were trying to imitate Michael Jackson.

    I am just glad they switched back so the players will stop complaining. But it looks like this one is really on Stern. I mean players like Lebron, DWade and Shaq cry and bitch just about everything, but when you got Kidd and Nash complaining about the ball, you know something’s up.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Wait Russ, you have kids?

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Well, I haven’t actually taken them yet, but I have a few picked out.

  • bja

    Don’t listen to them Lang. I loved the Tom Wolfe reference. Let’s get high brow up in here. Although I think Russ pioneered the 2nd person write ups in Slam in his old slamadamonths.

  • http://Slamonline.com Omar

    Always wanted to play with micro-fiber balls. No homo.

  • Steve

    I think Stern should now push to change the uniforms to microfiber material, a la George Castanza switching the Yankees’ uniforms to cotton.
    Is anyone tracking how Spalding stock is doing the past 5 months? Mortimer Duke probably sold it short this summer.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Once I start doing Slamadamonths again (soon), I plan on unveiling the ultra-difficult fifth person perspective.

  • Max Airington

    So is Ken Kesey gonna get an In Your Face next month? And you’d probably look more like Col. Sanders than Tom Wolfe in that white suit.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    Russ, when you said you haven’t taken any but have picked a few out, do you mean babies? because it seems like that’s your answer to Lang.
    but in any case, i can’t wait for the 5th person POV. it’s gonna open my eyes and my mind! it’s so exciting!

  • MiKeN

    Lolol beaut article, there.

  • Ekam

    David Sterns RACIST

  • http://www.laftortv.blogspot.com NIKE

    the switch from the old ball to the new ball then back again to the old ball is a lot of ballshit to me !
    com. stern , where are your balls ?

  • Norway

    but…. How many trillions of dollars is Spalding loosing because of the switch back?

  • http://SlamOnline qwertyuiop/crossover24

    anyone else her think David Stern is gay? Maybe we ‘d find HArt Kelly hiding in his closet.