It was four years ago when Adam Silver took over for the longest tenured commissioner in team sports: David Stern. The paint wasn’t even dry on the new commissioner’s office before he was hit with a major controversy; Donald Sterling — the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers — was recorded making racist remarks about African-American players and Lakers owner Magic Johnson. Racism in America never surprises me, but yes: in a league like the NBA it’s just weird to have a racist owner in a league where the league is seventy percent African-American. But Donald Sterling shows us again that racism knows no bounds.
This situation was great for Adam Silver. While it wasn’t great to have a racist owner in the NBA, this allowed Silver to assert himself immediately, forcing the other owners to work with him on a difficult and critical situation.
The owners, along with Silver, decided to place a lifetime ban on Donald Sterling; the franchise is now currently owned by Steve Ballmer. In a recent interview on CNN, Jay-Z criticized the move saying that it allowed all the closet racist to stay in closet. Adam Silver, in a recent interview on CNN, stood by the decision. So whether you like the move or not, Silver attacked the issue and got results.
The next crisis facing the NBA is the one-and-done rule for young men going from high school to the NBA or high school to college. College basketball has had a long history of payoffs and behind-the-scene scandals of teams paying-off players and their families to attend their universities. This was on full display at the University of Arizona when then-head coach Sean Miller was allegedly caught by FBI wire offering $100k to a recruit. The NBA’s current rule says a player can’t go to the NBA right out of high school; many believe this leads to the corruption in college and at the AAU level. Adam Silver sees the issue and is going to make a change.
The NBA is rumored to be offering a G-league alternative to the college game, or heading overseas to play out of high school. Silver’s ability to think outside the box and bringing the game young people has the NBA ratings and franchises worth more and more every year. No one wants to see these payoffs and scandals surround basketball at any level, so the NBA is doing something smart like baseball: create a legit minor league system that fans can enjoy and players can get paid legally as they develop. According to business journalism, the Sacramento River Cats (a MLB affiliate: San Francisco Giants) are worth $38 million dollars in 2013. David Stern did his job transforming the league from one filled with drugs and race issues. Know that his predecessor is transforming the league in a different way that will take the NBA to more places than ever before. If this change works, Adam Silver’s moves will continue to turn into NBA Gold.