Like a Bond villain, Stern ruled through fear, intimidation, and ruthless thirst for expansion to all corners of the globe. But unlike those villains, I begrudgingly tip my cap to Stern for helping build the league into what it is today.
I like that Stern has emphasized smaller markets through expansion and a favorable CBA, but then again, who wants to watch a Charlotte-Sacramento game on a Tuesday night? There was also all but blood in the streets when Seattle moved to Oklahoma City. Sacramento fans live in constant fear for their team being deported. Stern has a shrewd business mind, which is good for business, but it doesn't always help me as a fan. The league is big, but maybe...too big. (But at least the NBA has built franchises better than the NHL. Hockey in Atlanta? Really?)
Stern helped usher in a global NBA empire. And I LOVE that. With some of my baseball loving friends, I frequently argue which is a bigger global sport, baseball or basketball? It's no question. You can pick an NBA all-star from every continent. Euro leagues are becoming more attractive basketball finishing schools. Stern was initially reluctant to let NBA players go to Barcelona in '92, but its a decision he probably doesn't regret. This year's Olympics featured some professional caliber squads in Spain, France, and Brazil. This has been a great addition to the sport and I thank Stern for that. The NBA is also televised in 215 countries world-wide. This past year I've had in depth conversations about basketball with people from France and China. I don't think they would have been interested in talking about the advantages of a WAR metric. (And who watches the World Baseball Classic? Really?)
Stern also implemented some weird policies. There were accusations of racism when Stern implemented a dress code aimed at the hip-hop generation of basketball players. Stern vetoed the Chris Paul-to-Lakers deal that had many basketball-philes drooling. And preventing Stan Van Gundy from being on TV is just wrong.
So what is the meaning of David Stern? He helped grow a floundering league in to a global juggarnaut. Of course, he had help from mega stars like Jodan, Shaq, LeBron and Kobe. And there have been some rocky times like the lockouts. But I'll let it slide. To quote Bond-villain parody Dr. Evil, "I've been a frickin' evil doctor for 30 frickin' years! So cut me some frickin' slack." I guess I should.