Skip to content

David Stern on LeBron James’ return to Cleveland: “If it makes him happy, then I’m happy”

Aug 11, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers, Game 1 Getty Images

David Stern, NBA Commissioner emeritus, has always been good for some big picture views on things.

Stern was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this week and with that did a Q&A with David Aldridge for NBA.com. A variety of topics came up but eventually Stern was asked about LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland and what he thought. And mostly his conversation turned to something that the NBA and its owners have really wanted for a long time — more off-season buzz.

“I told LeBron, I thought that regardless of how poorly executed The Decision was, I thought the world was being horribly unfair to him. He was entitled to make that decision and he was entitled to make the decision he made. If it makes him happy, then I’m happy. I think it’s great. The additional dividend being, apparently, he has been much appreciated by the fans of the world for his decision to return to Cleveland. And I think that’s wonderful. And I think that it demonstrates how embedded the NBA is into the psyche of not just America, but maybe even the world. That during the world Cup, the second-most talked about issue was where would LeBron go? There was a baseball season going on, but everyone wanted to talk about LeBron. I thought that was a very positive development. And it sort of demonstrated something we’ve said over the years, that the drama that’s on and off the court provides fodder for our fans to think about, talk about, and get involved in some discussions about.”

Here’s the secret — you care more about trades and free agency then you do actual games. This is no a PBT thing or even a basketball thing (it’s true of football, baseball, etc.) — pretty much every team/sport centered Web site does more traffic at the peak of its off-season free agency than it does during the season or even playoffs. Bottom line is the NBA Finals are a two-city thing, free agency is a 30-city thing. Every market is involved. Throw the possibility of a superstar like LeBron in the mix and the buzz becomes a roar.

One of the perks of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (at least as the owners see it) is shorter contract lengths. In part because their mistakes come off the books more quickly, but also because it increases player movement. Guys are on the market more often and even those who are not free agents have more tradable shorter contracts.

Stern is right. Every time ESPN cut away from World Cup coverage they cut to LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony talk. I did a twitter chat during the NBA Finals and questions ran 5-1 about Kevin Love and free agency over the Finals. The NBA was the hot topic of conversation right in the middle of the baseball season and All-Star Game.

I’m tempted to say that next summer can’t match this summer… but Love will be a free agent (likely to re-sign in Cleveland, but he could leave), LeBron could opt-out (again, not leaving) and there will certainly be other big names and drama. The NBA really has a very short off-season now.

David Stern was behind a lot of that.

Latest Posts
  1. LeBron James out Wednesday vs. Blazers with wrist injury

    Jan 28, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Cleveland is just 1-8 without LeBron in the lineup this season.

  2. Kobe Bryant expected to be ready for start of 2015-16 season after undergoing successful shoulder surgery

    Jan 28, 2015, 6:37 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Bryant will miss the remainder of the current season, and is expected to be sidelined for nine months.

  3. J.R. Smith says he’s playing better in Cleveland because there’s less partying

    Jan 28, 2015, 6:13 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    One may have to work a little harder to find the late night parties in Cleveland.

  4. Bucks sign Jorge Gutierrez to 10-day contract

    Jan 28, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    Jason Kidd AP

    Larry Sanders’ suspension allows Milwaukee to add 16th player

  5. Tayshaun Prince: “Obviously I want to be in a winning situation”

    Jan 28, 2015, 4:45 PM EST

    Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    He is likely bought out if the Celtics can’t find a trade partner.

  6. Nets doctor expects Mirza Teletovic to make full recovery

    Jan 28, 2015, 1:55 PM EST

    Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Teletovic being released from hospital today

  7. Phil Jackson once admitted championship Knicks deflated balls

    Jan 28, 2015, 1:17 PM EST

    Jackson AP

    Jackson said breaking rule gave New York an edge due to team’s style of play

  8. Kevin Durant out against Knicks

    Jan 28, 2015, 12:42 PM EST

    Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks Getty Images

    Thunder remain heavy favorites

  9. Report: Terrence Ross riding bench in Toronto but will not be traded

    Jan 28, 2015, 12:05 PM EST

    Philadelphia 76ers V Toronto Raptors Getty Images

    The Raptors are trying to be patient and tap into his potential.

  10. Nikola Mirotic’s unique style rewarding Bulls for waiting on him

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:17 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls V San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    Mirotic, drafted in 2011, is a darkhorse challenger to Andrew Wiggins for Rookie of the Year

  11. Report: Executives have proposed moving up NBA trade deadline

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:59 AM EST

    Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    It probably would matter less than before, but why change the date?

  12. Report: Potential first rounder Robert Upshaw could sign in D-League after Washington dismissal

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:22 AM EST

    Robert Upshaw, Gary Payton II AP

    Upshaw reportedly failed multiple drug tests at Washington and Fresno State

  13. Stephen Curry had a great passing night (VIDEO)

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    He can do more than just shoot the rock.

  14. Report: Bucks to sign Kenyon Martin through end of season

    Jan 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

    Kenyon Martin, Chris Bosh AP

    They like his veteran leadership on a young team.

Featured video

Stephen Curry leads NBA MVP race mid-season
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (8075)
  2. H. Whiteside (7468)
  3. R. Rubio (7153)
  4. N. Batum (6849)
  5. K. Martin (6796)
  1. C. Anthony (6786)
  2. L. Aldridge (6734)
  3. K. Walker (6460)
  4. J. Noah (6279)
  5. D. Howard (6267)