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Looking back, Stern says “Malice in the Palace” was hardest thing he faced

Nov 11, 2013, 5:19 PM EST

ron-artest-at-the-malice-in-the-palace AP

David Stern has seen a lot in 30 years as NBA Commissioner. Remember two years before he took over NBA Finals games were recorded then shown after your local news at night. NBA playoff games were tape delayed up through 1986.

Now franchise valuations are way up, the NBA is a billion dollar business and Stern helped market and guide that. He is deservedly going to get a lot of accolades over the next four months.

But it wasn’t all rainbows and puppies — there were some hard times. Stern was on the John Feinstein Show on CBSSports Radio and talked about those dark days and what was the darkest of them. (hat tip and translation courtesy Eye on Basketball):

“Whether it’s Tim Donaghy, whether it’s Magic Johnson being HIV positive, or Ron Artest going into the stands, or Latrell Sprewell deciding it would be a good idea to strangle his coach or Gilbert Arenas bringing a gun into the locker room, I see that as, those crises have to be managed.”

Which one was toughest?

“Each one kept my up in its own way,” Stern said. “But the brawl that happened between the Pistons and the Pacers provided much of the media in the course of that weekend to use the words ‘thugs’ and ‘punks’ with respect to all of our players which to me is freighted with respect to what they’re really saying and brought up visions of the way the media treated us a decade or more earlier.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the marketing guru, the guy most concerned about the NBA brand, found that the most troubling times. Pacers players went into the stands to fight Pistons fans. It was a terrible black eye for the league — players fighting fans. As he said, it gave an avenue for those who hate the NBA and their players, whatever their reason, to go on the attack. To paint all the players with a broad brush.

Spreewell and Arenas, those are workplace issues (you can’t bring a gun into your office, Arenas can’t into a locker room). Magic’s HIV ended up with him helping change perceptions about the disease.

But there was no good out of the Malice in the Palace. It was just a mess.

  1. asimonetti88 - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    What about Len Bias passing away and the cocaine/drug problems of the 80s?

  2. milkman1989 - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    I did a paper on this and what the fall out was. The NBA Cares program was made from this in an attempt by stern & co to change the way people viewed the players and it worked to great effect. So there was some good out of the mess

  3. mimaiheatdynasty - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    That’s saying sumthn than becuz the drug scandal in the 80’s was outrageous.

    • antistratfordian - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      “What drug scandal?”

      -Stern, 1986

  4. raidmagic - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Yes the players shouldn’t have gone in the stands but let’s face it, some of those fans needed a beating.

    • mortalkondek - Nov 12, 2013 at 10:06 AM

      Dumbest thing I’ve read all day, thank you. But it is early yet.

  5. spursareold - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Crazy Ron, before he got so fat…

  6. azarkhan - Nov 11, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    It was also the worst thing you ever did, jerk! You gutted that Pacer team. The penalties were monumentally excessive. As far as I’m concerned, you are a major league a-hole for doing that and I’m ecstatic your sorry ass is leaving.

  7. hildezero - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    “Remember two years before he took over NBA Finals games were record then shown after your local news at night.”

    Don’t you mean recorded, not “record”?

  8. philtration - Nov 11, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    I would say that smelly beard was the toughest thing he faced.

  9. beaverdam21 - Nov 11, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    Off the top of my head, Len Bias never played in the NBA although I believe the C’s had drafted him just before he died.

  10. savvybynature - Nov 11, 2013 at 11:38 PM

    Don’t forget Popovich wanting to rest Tim Duncan, his 36-year-old superstar, during a meaningless regular season game on a back-to-back.

    Man, that was just terrible! Good thing Stern dropped the hammer big time for that!

    • mikerome64 - Nov 12, 2013 at 10:51 PM

      Maybe if Timmy wasn’t so rested he wouldn’t have missed that 2 footer that could have won them the Championship.

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