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David Stern talks Jordan, television, race in the NBA

Mar 29, 2013, 7:31 PM EST

David Stern AP

Over the next 11 months (almost 10 now) until David Stern walks away as NBA Commissioner after 30 years on the job, we are going to be innundated with retrospective interviews and discussions of his time in office and the evolution of the NBA in that time.

Along those lines, Stern spoke at a “Captains of Industry” event in New York Friday, where he was interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Turangiel. The Web site Gothamist transcribed and gives us some of the best quotes out of the discussion.

Stern on his relationship with Michael Jordan:

“It’s good. I call him up and bust his chops when his team is not doing well, which is a lot.”

Stern on the issue of race in the NBA (when he started working for the league in 1978 race was one of the league’s key image issues and now it is an almost non-existent marketing concern).

“I don’t know if or where it ended, but of course it [race] is an important part of our history. I remember being called by an agent for an advertiser who said he didn’t want to advertise with us anymore because we were getting “too black.” An important columnist at the time, who I won’t name, said, “there’s no way America will accept a majority black league.”

“It’s a much larger story, but race is a part of our story, maybe it always will be, or at least an undercurrent, but it’s wonderfully, wonderfully ignored by a generation of people who just grew up being basketball fans.”

Stern talked about the growth of the NBA on television.

“In 1978 I was hired as general council, and I thought, I’ll do it for two years with a one year option. I figured it was a fun opportunity that I didn’t want to look back on and say I passed up…

At that time the finals were televised on tape delay and the only time we made the national stage was because of acts of violence or race issues.

Weekend day games were one of the few ways we could get live broadcasts, and I remember the Houston vs. Celtics finals we scheduled back-to-back Saturday and Sunday day games just to have the live telecast. Compare that to now, LeBron James had probably been seen more by high school than Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell had been in their entire careers.

And the off the wall question of the day: Would he want to be mayor of New York City?

“I’m not crazy.”

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