To his eternal shame, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was compelled to testify under oath in suspended-for-life running back Ray Rice’s arbitration hearing. An army of lawyers fought and failed to keep Goodell’s hand off of the Bible so he would not have to swear to tell the truth about what he knew about Ray Rice’s videotaped assault of his wife Janay, and when he knew it. Unlike Roger Goodell, Adam Silver is not an embarrassment to his sport.
That does not mean, however, that it wouldn’t be interesting to also see the new NBA commissioner under oath for a question or two. While Silver has only been on the job for under a year, he was in the corridors of power, alongside David Stern, since 1992. That is 22 years with a front seat to the great NBA Soap Opera. So bring out the Bible and pull up a seat. Here are the topics I would address with the new commish:
1) Donald Sterling. The crisis that earned Adam Silver fulsome praise upon taking over for Stern was his quick dispatching of the former Clippers owner after audio was released of Sterling aiming racial invective at Magic Johnson. My question to Silver would be, “Sterling’s racism, whether through his interaction with players or in his capacity as a slum owner, has been an open secret for years. How did he stay an owner for so many decades? Why did David Stern coddle this man for so many years? Why was he handed Los Angeles? The Staples Center? Chris Paul???” You know there’s a story here somewhere, and Silver knows it.
2) The late-’90s. I want to ask Silver about how worried the NBA was 15 years ago when the best player in the land was no longer Michael Jordan and became Allen Iverson. I would ask, “In your own words, was there a seminar for League execs about corn rows and hip-hop music? How did that decision get made to airbrush AI’s tattoos off of his arms for a League-owned magazine? And how was the decision made to introduce a dress code for players? Please take us inside those discussions. We will get the popcorn.”
3) The Malice at the Palace. How remarkable would it be for Silver to take us behind the closed doors of the NBA’s Manhattan offices to gauge the collective freakout after Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson effectively went into the stands to fight the suburbs of Detroit. Both men, who would be known as Metta World Peace and Captain Jack, enjoyed successful “second acts” in the NBA. I would love to ask, “How close were they both from being permanently banned from the League? And was this ever seriously discussed?”
4) Goodbye Sonics. The absence of pro ball in Seattle is the great stain on the legacy of David Stern, and Adam Silver had a front row seat for the heist that delivered the team to Oklahoma City. It doesn’t take Easy Rawlins to detect that Stern and Thunder owner Clay Bennett had a plan for moving the team to OKC. But how involved were the NBA offices in this crime against basketball? Did Stern orchestrate this as soon as the people of Seattle refused to pay for yet another publicly funded facility, which was before Bennett bought the franchise? Or did Stern step in only after it was clear that Bennett, who by coincidence had long been married into one of Oklahoma’s wealthiest families, planned to steal the franchise?
5) The Money. My last question for Adam Silver would be about the future of the League. NBA owners are about to get rich, even by their standards about what it means to be rich. The League just signed a television deal worth a staggering $24 billion over the next nine years. As a fan, I would want to ask Silver just how greedy his side is planning on being. The players will want their share of this gusher of wealth. Will people on Silver’s side of the table play nice or will this be a repeat of NBA owners crying poverty and locking out the players? Let’s hear it, Commissioner: Are the owners preparing for war or peace?
It is difficult to imagine Silver ever finding himself in a situation as dire as that of the endlessly incompetent Goodell, but we’re prepared in case it ever happens.
Dave Zirin is a SLAM contributor and the Sports Editor of The Nation. Follow him on Twitter @EdgeofSports.