Is this the Best Time for Stern to Retire?
To that end, LeBron James, who is already trying to undo the damage caused by his own decision to play the villain last year, must surely be relieved that (David) Stern took his job. Being the villain is so hard that most players who do so tend to mellow in time because of the extraordinary energy it takes to keep up the façade.
And Stern is 2 ½ times James’ age, and has somewhat less stamina to carry that kind of weight. So here’s our guess -– this is Stern’s last year in the big leather chair. His 34 years with the league — the last 28 as commissioner — have seen the game grow in franchises and popularity, and it has survived some monumental self-inflictions over that time. This isn’t the worst of them, but as they say, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in their 20s ain’t comin’ through that door to save anyone this time.
These are going to be hard times in the league, and they will last at least through this truncated year. More to the point, nobody will blame Billy Hunter for them, because the head of the players union doesn’t have to take a public role in anything for years.
And the owners won’t be anywhere where blame can be sniffed out and distributed. No, this will be presented to Stern — as Stern’s — and if James had trouble with the bad guy, Stern, who has even more reason to be perceived as the good guy, will have a bellyful of this, and quickly. Maybe he takes the thank you tour, and maybe he doesn’t. He’ll be the best one to gauge the wisdom in that.