I have mixed feelings about this guy. The NBA certainly grew in popularity on his watch, but … Tim Donaghy.
I’m not an expert on NBA commissioners but I think I would take David Stern anyday over the Social Justice Warrior Adam Silver.
Just my marginally educated 2 pennies.
I think Stern may have also been the Jedi Master to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s Padawan.
And yeah, Bettman getting booed when he awards the Stanley Cup is an annual ritual, but NHL revenues and the salary cap he put in place have both grown steadily during his tenure … and the league is fixing to add its 32nd team in Seattle next season.
During Stern’s tenure in the NBA, there were always these (unproven) rumblings that the league offices were influencing outcomes in order to boost ratings in key markets. The Donaghy scandal didn’t help that perception, especially since one of the most egregious Donaghy rig jobs put the Lakers in the Finals ahead of Sacramento.
Maybe we’ll know the truth of it all ten years from now.
I’ve always thought Donaghy himself was one of the officials of this game, but it turns out he wasn’t. He just alleged that the officiating of that game was rigged by the NBA:
On June 10, 2008, Donaghy’s attorney filed a court document alleging, among other things, that Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings was fixed by two referees. The letter states that Donaghy “learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be ‘company men’, always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series.” The Lakers won Game 6, attempting 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter, and went on to win the 2002 NBA Finals. The teams were not named, but the Western Conference Finals was the only seven-game series that year. The document claimed that Donaghy told federal agents that to increase television ratings and ticket sales, “top executives of the NBA sought to manipulate games using referees”. It also said that NBA officials would tell referees to not call technical fouls on certain players, and states that a referee was privately reprimanded by the league for ejecting a star player in the first quarter of a January 2000 game. Stern denied the accusations, calling Donaghy a “singing, cooperating witness”. Federal authorities investigated Donaghy’s claims and found no evidence to support them. About this, AUSA Jeffrey Goldberg told the court, "…we’ve never taken the position that Mr. Donaghy has lied to us. But there is a difference between telling the truth and believing you’re telling the truth and finding out later that a number of the allegations don’t hold any water.”
Excellent article on Stern by University of NH Law Professor and SI Columnist Michael McCann.