Do you think David Stern has trouble sleeping at night? I mean beyond the normal sleep apnea that most adults in their late sixties feel? Because I think he does.
I would put Euros on it, in fact.
For all the media massaging that David Stern does, no amount of time in his positive spin machine can make the NBA smell like roses lately.
Tim Donaghy? There’s one scandal that just won’t go away, to the point where former high school classmates of his are now going to jail. League legitimacy remains in question and the referees, ever under scrutiny and used as scapegoats for Stern and the league’s front office, are surely gaining nothing from the negative media attention.
But guess what is irking the Commish the most, much more than referee shadiness or young rich player stupidity?
Plenty of people have been talking about how Childress’s move opens the flood gates for NBA players to head over to Europe now, chasing the almighty Euro and living the life of Gods where they are beloved by fans and females in unprecedented amounts. Sounds a little like playing here in the US during normal financial times to me though (this recession can’t last forever now can it?), and I don’t really see that as the major issue, nor does Stern apparently:
NBA commissioner David Stern has consistently said he is comfortable with the notion that there are some players who can make more money in Europe and would prefer to play there, saying the majority of the world’s best basketball players still seek the allure of playing in the world’s most prestigious league. (from ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan–go here for full story)
What I believe to be the real issue, what I believe is eating away at Stern, is the manner in which this happened.
David Stern has been a mostly successful commissioner because he controls the league in every manner. His control is well planned and it is total.
The problem isn’t Josh Childress going to play for Greek club Olympiacos, it’s that Stern didn’t have a hand in it.
For years now, stemming back all the way to the world wide media storm that the Original Dream Team stirred at the ’92 Olympics, Stern has been working on a plan to globalize the NBA. And every year, it seems that he is a step closer to accomplishing his plan.
What had been the main hold up, according to Stern, was the “absence of NBA-sized buildings,” (from an article posted on February 13, 2008 by SI.com’s Ian Thomsen) that is, buildings that would seat enough people to offer a revenue stream equal to those here in North America.
Yet, in that same article, Thomsen points to the fact that the arena situation was improving:
But the landscape has changed with the emergence of NBA-styled arenas in Europe. The 02 Arena in London and the soon-to-be-opened 02 Arena in Berlin (both named after a mobile phone sponsor in Europe) are NBA-ready venues outfitted with the necessary suites and amenities. In addition, Rome has broken ground on a new arena, and Real Madrid is expected to begin construction soon on a new building in Spain. Those four cities would be among the leading candidates to receive NBA franchises in the next decade, if Stern pursues his vision. But the expansion is predicated on more arenas being built in Europe in coming years.
One would then think that Stern had the expansion plan just where he wanted, right? Yet Thomsen makes another interesting point (forgive me for the large excerpts, there is plenty more in the article I haven’t/won’t touch on, so go read it):
There is a sense that the clock is ticking down on the league’s long-term plan to grow basketball in Western Europe. With NBA-ready buildings sprouting up, the source suggested that Stern feels the need to move before a competing entity seizes the opportunity of moving into those arenas and starting up a new European league from scratch.
The quote notices Stern’s control issues, more specifically his worry of losing that control by being beaten to the punch by an upstart entity.
But, everyone overlooked the clubs that already existed.
With basketball still growing in Western Europe, it seems that Stern’s plan was to act as big brother. He would install his teams and his brand, thereby owning the development of successful basketball there. The teams already in place would most likely have become feeders for the NBA Europe teams, a built in minor league, the little brothers.
No one would have suspected that the little brother would make the first move, though.
By signing Josh Childress, Olympiacos has now shown David Stern and the NBA that European clubs are capable of attracting NBA level talent. Shouldn’t it only be a matter of time before they realize their potential to make NBA level dollars as well, especially with the new arenas in place?
We’ve seen it here in the States with David Beckham (yes, I realize the difference between a David Beckham and a Josh Childress, shut up)–talent will bring fans to the stadium.
The European clubs now realize that they don’t need David Stern to provide that talent.
And I bet David Stern is tossing and turning over it.