Tradition dictates that with the turn of a decade spawns new life into our desire to be reflective. The first of January inherently opens up the floodgates to a wealth of new-found drive to reach new goals, to aspire for a fresh and productive new year, but it also serves as a catalyst to encourage us to look back on what we’ve achieved and the journey we’ve been on. In the case of the National Basketball Association (NBA) however, January of 2020 started off with an immediate kick in the proverbials. The league was struck with the sad news that its long time leader, former Commissioner David Stern, had passed aged 77.
In serving as the league’s Chief from 1984-2014, Stern oversaw a multitude of change. A divisive figure, he was able to inflict both his progressive ethos and his unrelenting passion for the sport in equal measure, leading the NBA to become the headline act amongst the other major sports in America - and subsequently, to become a powerhouse on the global stage as well.
In keeping with the new year reflective spirit, let us explore the 10 most important and/or influential changes David Stern made throughout his tenure.
One honourable mention: his choice to veto the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade while he was in part control of the then New Orleans Hornets. This has been scrutinized, highlighted and otherwise devoured countless times, and to fit into our criteria here we are not going to include it (yes, it made a statement, but that statement was more of stubbornness and a desire to hinder the Lakers in the short term, so we shall move right along…).
10. The Creation Of The Salary Cap
Our list begins with our titular character making arguably one of his more defining accomplishments at the very outset. In 1983, having been appointed a member of the League’s General Counsel, he was crucial in the introduction of the then pioneering notion of a Salary Cap.
Stern and his team put forth - and subsequently implemented - the proposal of a system whereby teams could only utilise of percentage of their respective revenue as a means of signing players and staff, thus aiding to level the figurative playing field for the smaller market teams. This change also served to effectively make players junior-partners in their franchise, and the league as a whole, making them further accountable in the success of failure of the league.
The significance and progressive-thinking of this rule cannot be understated, nor can its impact; something which becomes all the more apparent given that The National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL) did not introduce their own salary cap until 1994 and 2005 respectively.