You wouldn't know it took look at him (especially in the picture above), but David Stern is a bad motherfucker. He's the Moses Malone of sports commissioners. (I guess this makes Bud Selig Shawn Bradley.) Stern has guided the NBA through multiple transitions, leading up to today, where basketball is the healthiest it's been in a long time. Depending on where you stand, this recent prosperity is either thanks to, or in spite of, David's iron fisted rule. But, love it or hate it, it's been one of the hallmarks of the NBA. Don't agree with zone defense? Well go play Slamball then, bitch. Hey Mark Cuban, you don't like the refs? Well now you're not allowed in the huddle. How do you like them apples? Stern has honed belittling the opinions of others down to a science. When the debate on the new dress code was in full swing, David cagily avoided many valid points on the issue. Instead, he highlighted absurd comments such as Marcus Camby's request for a stipend to pay for clothes. In the NBA, it's David Stern's world, we're all just paying rent.
This why I found yesterday's admission that the introduction of the new ball was mishandled so mindblowing. This isn't to say that I don't think the NBA made a mistake. Changing the ball without allowing any player oversight showed a great deal of hubris. I'm also not claiming that Stern didn't have some good reasons for wanting to make the adjustment. But whether a synthetic ball was a good choice or a bad one, I was sure David would get away with it. He has when it came to everything else. However, the union found their nuts and filed an unfair labor practices suit, so the Comissioner was faced with some options. Stick to his guns and risk getting shown up in court, or open up the issue. It remains to be seen just how conciliatory David Stern is willing to be, but, so far, this is a big leap forward.