Emperor of the L
David Stern debriefs on NBA China.
by Ben Sin / @bennymeter
Late Wednesday evening – 7 p.m. to be exact – NBA China sent out an email with the subject titled “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT.”
“Nine AM tomorrow,” the email said, “NBA Commissioner David Stern will hold his press conference at Guangzhou’s Grand Hyatt ballroom.”
Prior to this email, the day’s activities were scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. with a New Jersey Nets open practice. My itinerary was all planned – I was gonna wake up at 10 a.m., have myself a Hong Kong-style milk tea breakfast, hop on the 11 a.m. Hong Kong-to-Guangzhou train, arrive at the state-of-the-art Guangzhou Sports Arena on the dot and do my thing.
I reckon most out-of-town journalists had similar plans. No one was going to Guangzhou – hardly a vacation hotspot – early.
But the Commish had other plans. Maybe he likes waking up early. Maybe his announcement is so important it must be held first thing in the morning. Maybe his afternoon was packed with massage appointments – who knows. But it’s what the man wants, and it’s what he’ll get.
So I get up at 6 a.m., run out the door, eat a quick McDonald’s Big Breakfast (only the Hong Kong version really isn’t that big) and rush to catch the 7 a.m. train.
Arriving at the Ritz Carlton a little past 9 a.m. after a manic cab ride, I run into the ballroom and take a seat along other foreign media – all of us complaining about the early start. Then in walks Stern and silence hits the room.
Some people just have that aura, they say. That “it” factor that freezes a room.
David Stern has it.
“Good morning,” Stern says with a sly smile – the same smile that was on his face when the Knicks drew the No. 1 pick in the 1985 Draft – as he takes his seat.
What happens next is a blur. Stern is so diplomatic and commanding with his speech – a cadence that rivals the best politicians and TV hosts – he has the room in control.
Stern says he wanted to tell the Chinese fans the NBA is committed to the Chinese market.
Stern says instead of watching games at weird hours, bringing games here allows the fans to watch them in prime time.
Stern says he wants to bring regular season games to China, but traveling costs and tight schedule makes it hard. He concedes it’s still a fantasy at this point.
Stern says he once wanted to establish an NBA China league but now has changed the plan to work with the Chinese Basketball Association instead. “We want to promote the game together,” he says.
Stern says we can’t call Miami a super team because they have yet to play a meaningful game. “Kobe, Pau, Lamar, that’s a super team,” he adds. “Garnett, Pierce, Ray, that’s a super team.”
Stern says more, but ultimately, the message is clear: When David Stern says to wake your ass up three hours early to come see him, everyone listens.
Ben Sin is a California-raised, Hong Kong-based journalist currently writing for the South China Morning Post. His true passion, some say obsession, is basketball. Visit his blog at therearenoroads.wordpress.com.