David Stern is no villain to the NBA.
by Ben Sin
So you can’t blame jazz musicians or David Stern with his NBA fashion issues.
—Nas, Hip Hop is Dead
With the ongoing revenue dispute between NBA players and owners escalating to a point that the upcoming season may be canceled, league commissioner David Stern’s rep is taking a big hit.
Led by journalist Adrian Wojnarowski, a wave of backlash against Stern has taken over among many fans and pundits.
This isn’t the first time Stern has been blamed or criticized. As that Nas verse referenced, Stern famously implemented a dress code among NBA players about back in 2005, forcing many players to stop wearing do-rags, crooked caps and oversized hip-hop attire during pre- and post-game appearances.
“That’s a racist rule, singling out hip hop wear.”
“An old white men is telling young black men how to dress?”
That was the reaction among many players, talking heads, and journalists.
Well guess what? Blaming the rich, white man is the lazy, easy way out. And it’s also wrong.
As much as pundits and race-card-trigger-happy folks want to paint Stern as some sort of racist dictator, the fact is Stern knows what he’s doing, has the track record to prove it, and he cares.
In a wonderful Grantland profile of Michael Ray Richardson last week, Stern banned Richardson from the NBA for life after multiple drug violations in the ’80s. Richardson now credits Stern for saving his life.
Imagine that? Stern kicked him out of the League, costing him tens of millions of dollars, yet Richardson is thankful.
Stern taught him a lesson, by disciplining him, making him realize his erroneous ways, and most importantly, Stern helped guided him to the right path.
It was the commish who helped Richardson land a cushy community relations job with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA in the ’90s.
As for the NBA dress code, all that brouhaha looks foolish now, as a new generation of young black men are ditching the oversized jeans and eye-covering beanies for a trendy, hipster look. Just look at how LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire and Dwight Howard are dressed in post-game conferences—those dudes look like a fly Steve Urkel from Williamsburg.
Today, LeBron is on the cover of GQ. Stoudemire sits front row at fashion shows, schmoozing with Tommy Hilfiger. Kobe dressed like a pilgrim in another fashion shoot.
Take away the dress code now and not one of those guys would stop wearing skinny pants and Buddy Holly glasses.
Stern knew what he was doing. He wanted young black men to represent themselves better—for the good of the League, of course, but still. He knew that by ditching the old gear and suiting up, Barney Stinson style, they’d be more marketable, become bigger stars.
It’s easy to blame David Stern. He let Oklahoma highjack Seattle’s team. He won’t interfere with Donald Sterling’s cheap-ass ways. He isn’t doing enough to prevent the lockout. He rigs the Playoffs.
But in a multi-billion dollar business, everything isn’t black and white. Bill Simmons confronted Stern with many of these accusations on a podcast recently, and Stern had a counter for each and every one. Simmons was left in awe.
Say what you want about Stern, but the fact remains: The sport has grown under David Stern like it has never grown before, the League is a pioneer in tackling the digital age, and most importantly, as Dennis Rodman himself addressed in his Hall of Fame speech, David Stern cares.