David Stern’s last gift to Adam Silver and the NBA owners

imagesIn 1981 Donald T. Sterling (Born Donald Tokowitz) acquired the San Diego Clippers for a meager $12.5 million.  At this time the Clippers were notoriously known for bad basketball, poorly attended games (Less than 4,400 per game) and essentially recognized as the perennial bottom dweller in the NBA.  $12.5 million.  For a team that finished 17-65 and whose best player was an aging, often injured, Bill Walton.  This was also a period in the NBA’s history, in which the entirety of the league began to see groundbreaking reform, led by David Stern.


In 1984, when Stern took over as commissioner, the NBA was ‘a glorified 23-city circus’.  The league had not attracted the sort of fanfare and following that would entice major networks to invest in live broadcasts of NBA games.  As late as 1981, NBA finals aired on tape delay because CBS executives were more interested in programming that drew bigger audiences.  In 1984 the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan, and despite the leagues most popular teams and faces competing in the finals almost on a yearly basis, Larry Bird and Ervin Magic Johnson weren’t even enough to gain the league substantial recognition.

Fast Forward to Wednesday, May 29th 2014*

We all have come to know and understand, probably too much, of the Donald Sterling saga, it has been well documented.  However, on Wednesday a sale of the Clippers was signed for approval by Shelly Sterling (Donald’s estranged wife) and the winning bid, submitted by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, marked a new NBA record for the sale of one of its franchises.  Steve Ballmer’s bid of $2 billion has far and away surpassed the next highest sale, which totaled close to $550 million in early 2014 for the leagues worst team, the Milwaukee Bucks.

In a matter of 35 years David Stern has facilitated more than 4000% increase in value for the leagues worst team.  Given the specifics of the two franchises, the location, personnel and current value of their television broadcasting deals (Clippers deal currently worth $20 million and expires after the 2015-2016 season) it is easy to see why Los Angeles’ team would be worth more than Milwaukee’s.

We all would like to continue to vilify Mr. Sterling and the horrendous things he has been recorded saying, but strictly business speaking, Mr. Sterling and the rest of the NBA owners all owe David Stern (among others) a lifetime’s worth of Christmas cards, for the substantial amount of growth across all of the NBA franchises as well as its sponsors and affiliates.