Commissioner of the NBA
Maurice Podoloff (1946–1963)
After the BAA signed several of the top names in the National Basketball League into the league, Podoloff negotiated a merger between the two groups to form the National Basketball Association in 1949. As a lawyer with no previous basketball experience, Podoloff's great organizational and administrative skills were later regarded as the key factor that kept the league alive in its often stormy formative years.
In 17 years as president, Podoloff expanded the NBA to as many as 19 teams. He also briefly formed three divisions and scheduled 558 games.
During his tenure, Podoloff introduced the collegiate draft in 1947, and in 1954 instituted the 24 second shot clock created by Dan Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals which quickened the pace of games, and took the NBA from a slow plodding game to a fast paced sport. In 1954, Podoloff also increased national recognition of the game immensely by securing its first television contract.
As the commissioner of the NBA, he was the one who gave lifetime suspensions to Indianapolis Olympians players Ralph Beard and Alex Groza, not for what they did in the NBA but what had happened in the NCAA. Groza and Beard had admitted to point shaving in college at the University of Kentucky.
Maurice Podoloff stepped down as NBA Commissioner in 1963. During his period in office, he had helped increase fan interest during the NBA's formative years and improved the overall welfare of the sport of basketball through his foresight, wisdom and leadership. In his honor, the NBA would name its annual league Most Valuable Player trophy the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
J. Walter Kennedy (1963–1975)
Succeeding first president Maurice Podoloff, the likable, approachable J. Walter Kennedy became an iron-handed executive and let everyone know precisely where he stood on issues. Kennedy quickly exerted his authority, slapping Red Auerbach with a $500 fine for rowdy conduct during a pre-season 1963 game. At the time, it was the largest fine ever levied against a coach or player in the NBA.
His title was changed to "commissioner" in 1967. Kennedy was also the commissioner who upheld the first protest ever in the NBA, which was the one filed by the Chicago Bulls for "the Phantom Buzzer Game" against the Atlanta Hawks in 1969.
The new commissioner came into the NBA when the league was struggling with only nine teams, no television contract, sagging attendance and competition from the increasingly popular American Basketball Association. When Kennedy retired in 1975 as commissioner, the league had increased to 18 teams, landed a lucrative television contract and improved its financial standing considerably, experienced a 200 percent boost in income and attendance figures tripled during his tenure
Walter Kennedy was also instrumental in bringing an annual NBA game to Springfield to benefit the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where he served on Hall of Fame's Board of Trustees for 13 years, including two years as the Hall of Fame's President. Kennedy himself would be inducted into the Hall in 1981. The NBA's annual citizenship award recognizing "outstanding service and dedication to the community" is named in Kennedy's honor.
Larry O'Brien (1975–1984)
Larry O'Brien was appointed in 1975 by the National Basketball Association to serve nationally as its commissioner, where he directed the successful ABA–NBA merger. It brought the American Basketball Association into the NBA, negotiated television-broadcast agreements with CBS, and saw game attendance increase significantly. He continued this service through 1984. The NBA Championship Trophy was renamed in 1984 the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy in honor of his service to the sport of basketball.
However, his league was troubled by public relations issues through his tenure, especially after the merger. He was generally pushed by his staff into many of his decisions, most notably by his successor as NBA commissioner, David Stern. Many consider Stern the driving force behind the television contracts with CBS and rise in game attendance, as well as several crucial issues that predicated the rise of the NBA in the early 1980s.
NBA career highlights
- League expanded from 18 to 23 teams
- Coordinated the NBA's richest TV contract to date (1982)
- Brought the NBA to cable television (ESPN and USA) in 1982, establishing the league as a pioneer of cable TV
- Negotiated two landmark collective bargaining agreements (1976, 1983)
- Modified the college draft and restored peace to a league in the midst of legal turmoil (1976)
- Negotiated the ABA–NBA merger as the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, and New York Nets joined the league and the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis were bought out and Virginia Squires folded
- Introduced salary cap (1983)
- Orchestrated the 1976 settlement of the Oscar Robertson suit, creating a fair and equitable system of free agency for veterans
- Annual NBA attendance reached 10 million during his tenure
- Gate receipts doubled and television revenue tripled during his time as commissioner
- Established NBA College Scholarship program (1980)
- Reached a stringent anti-drug agreement with the National Basketball Players Association (1983)
- Oversaw the adoption of the three-point field goal in the NBA (1979)
David Stern (1984–2014)
On February 1, 1984, David Stern became the Commissioner of the NBA, succeeding Larry O'Brien. It was during that same year (1984–85) that four of the NBA's biggest superstars – Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton—entered the league.
The arrival of Michael Jordan, in particular, ushered in a new era of commercial bounty for the NBA. With him came his flair and talent for the game, and that brought in source contracts from Nike which helped to give the league even more national attention. Jordan and the two other premier basketball players of the 1980s, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, took the game to new heights of popularity and profit. By 2004, Stern oversaw the NBA's expansion from 10 to 30 franchises (since 1966), expansion into Canada, and televising games in countries around the world.
Stern also oversaw the creation of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), a professional women's basketball league. Stern has been credited for developing and broadening the NBA's audience, by setting up training camps, playing exhibition games around the world, and recruiting more international players.
The NBA now has eleven offices in cities outside the United States, is televised in 215 countries around the world in 43 languages, and operates the WNBA and the National Basketball Development League under Stern's watch.
Following a Board of Governors meeting in October 2012, Stern announced that he would retire from the office of Commissioner by February 1, 2014. It was also announced that he would be succeeded by then-Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Adam Silver. Stern stepped down from the position at end of day on January 31, 2014, concluding a 30-year tenure to the day.
Notable events during Stern's tenure
- Appointed Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, Russ Granik.
- Built 28 new arenas (10 since 1999)
- Relocation of six NBA franchises (Clippers, Kings, Grizzlies, SuperSonics, and Nets)
- Seven new NBA teams (Hornets, Heat, Timberwolves, Magic, Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Raptors)
- Ratification of the NBA dress code.
- The removal of hand-checking after the 2004 NBA Finals.
- Established the "No tolerance rule" in 2006, allowing officials to assign technical fouls on players for complaining about officiating.
- Instituted the lottery prior to the draft.
- Instituted a minimum age of 19 to be eligible for the draft, beginning in 2005. This led to a proliferation of "one-and-done" players in college basketball.
- NBA Finals Trophy renamed to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
- NBA Finals MVP Trophy renamed to the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.
- Four NBA lockouts (1995, 1996, 1998–1999, and 2011)
- FBI-affirmed accusations of game-fixing involving referee Tim Donaghy
- Issued fines on players for flopping.
- Instituted a 2-3-2 format for the NBA Finals in 1985, only to move back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format in October 2013 at the behest of Adam Silver.
Adam Silver (2014–present)
On February 1, 2014, Adam Silver was unanimously approved to succeed David Stern as Commissioner of the NBA. Originally the Deputy Commissioner from 2005 through 2014, he was a protege of David Stern, who endorsed Silver to be his replacement on October 2013. Previously, Silver worked as senior vice president of NBA Entertainment, president of NBA Entertainment, a special assistant to the commissioner, NBA chief of staff, and Deputy Commissioner under Stern. Basketballs for games now contain Silver's signature, a first for the NBA. Silver hand-picked Mark Tatum as his Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. Tatum is the first African-American Deputy Commissioner of the NBA in history.
Three months into Silver's tenure, he banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life in response to racist comments made by Sterling, during a private telephone conversation with Sterling's girlfriend. Additionally, he fined Sterling US$2.5 million, the maximum allowed under the NBA Constitution, and urged owners to vote to expel Sterling from ownership of the Clippers, which they eventually did. Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, became the new owner of the Clippers.
- Halberstam, David (1999). Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World he Made. Random House. ISBN 0-7679-0444-3.
- Burns, Marty (2002-05-07). "In terms of dollars, Jordan was NBA's real MVP". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
- DuPree, David. "NBA Finals are whole new world", USA Today, June 14, 2005. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
- City of Seattle
- "David J. Stern". NBA.com. 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2011-01-10.
- Wojnarowski, Adrian. "David Stern stepping down as NBA commissioner in 2014; Adam Silver will take over". Yahoo! Sports. Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
- Stein, Marc (January 31, 2014). "Hard to imagine NBA without Stern". ESPN.com. ESPN. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
- Aldridge, David (January 27, 2014). "Oral history: The life and times of Commissioner David Stern". NBA.com. National Basketball Association & Turner Broadcasting. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
- Sheridan, Chris. "2002 Lakers-Kings Game 6 at heart of Donaghy allegations". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
- Munson, Lester. "NBA's pursuit of restitution from Donaghy a blunder". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 3, 2012.