Of course NBA commissioner David Stern has his tongue placed firmly in cheek when, in an interview with 92Y in New York that was thankfully transcribed by Gothamist, he mentioned calling up Charlotte Bobcat owner Michael Jordan to mock MJ’s last-place Bobcats.
It’s a small aside, but we still love to picture the “byron mullens lol srsly MJ?” texts Stern might be sending Jordan’s way. From Gothamist:
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.
(Admittedly, there’s not much to that quote, so we’ll toss in another aside about the league that Stern was given nearly 30 years ago.)
On the NBA when he started vs. now:
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.
The NBA's first TV contract under his watch:
We had a contract with CBS for $22 million per game, and our first cable deal was with USA for somewhere between $400k-$600k per game, but at that time CBS only televised three regular season games. I remember when the NFL lockout happened we thought we'd get an extra game or two televised, but instead they aired the St. John's vs the Yugoslavian National Team.
Again, Stern was probably trumping up his back and forth with Jordan. We don’t doubt that the two have a good relationship, but it’s hard to imagine the commissioner doing the same in terms of crank calls to Phoenix owner Richard Sarver, or the Maloofs in Sacramento. Though if I had either Sarver or the Maloof’s numbers, I would spend the bulk of my Friday evening crank calling them to no end, jerky.
Maybe Stern did meddle a bit, though.
Jordan’s tenure in Washington was mostly a disaster, though in MJ’s defense 30 out of 30 GMs were waiting in line to draft Kwame Brown with the top overall pick in 2001. Thirty out of 30 NBA GMs weren’t doing the same in 2006 when it came time for Jordan to draft Adam Morrison, but the consensus wasn’t that far off. Beyond that, though, Jordan has chased down myriad “win now” personnel moves, and though the Bobcats did well to make the playoffs in 2010, it was clear from the outset of that playoff run that Jordan’s mortgaging of Charlotte’s future was probably not in the franchise’s best interest. Certainly not for merely a first round sweep, at least.
Former Bobcat coach Larry Brown, because he’s Larry Brown and this is what he does, quit the following year after a 9-19 start. Paul Silas did well to lead the Bobcats to a respectable 25-28 finish to the 2010-11 season, but it was clear the franchise was stuck in NBA purgatory with little room for improvement. Jordan again used the draft to take a project (Bismack Biyombo) and the biggest name available (Kemba Walker, in hindsight a fantastic move) after that season, and then hunkered down for what he probably hoped would be a lockout that would cancel the 2011-12 NBA season.
Not because he’s lost his competitive spirit, but because the Bobcats were losing tons of money. The 2011-12 campaign eventually featured a Bobcats team that produced the lowest winning percentage in NBA history. Stern, no stranger to encouraging certain front office hires around the league, may have gotten in touch with MJ at some point to hint that his time as personnel boss may have been a bit of a miss, and that it may have led directly toward the Bobcats’ attendance and revenue issues, along with the whole “you won seven games this season”-thing. New GM Rich Cho was hired after 2011-12 mercifully came to a close.
Of course, all this may be speculation. Stern’s probably just bustin’ huevos. When your team has lost 113 of its last 134 games, you’ve probably earned it.
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