The relentless, full-throated booing of NBA Commissioner David Stern has become one of the truly remarkable and ridiculous traditions of the annual NBA draft over the years, and the 2012 edition was no exception. Cats on the spot at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., dropped bombs on the commish from pillar to post on Thursday night, unleashing weapons-grade hate on the league's boss from before he stepped out on the stage until the moment he ceded the spotlight to NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, who announced the picks in the second round.
And he loooooooooooved it.
Check out Stern's reaction to those lusty, lusty boos, and get caught up on the rest of Thursday's top stories in sports, thanks to our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute:
Now hit the jump for Stern's full, sarcasm-soaked opening, a first-person listen to the lambasting inside the Prudential Center, the love showered upon Silver and more.
As soon as Stern set foot on stage, he was swarmed by jeers. But as you might expect from someone who's heard at least this much straight-up vitriol more times than most men have drawn breath, the commish was ready to wryly deflect, proceed and even raise the stakes:
"Thank you for that warm welcome, and good evening," Stern began, the smile already crawling across his face.
After a brief boilerplate intro, Stern decided to have a little bit of fun with the Newark audience, which was composed (as most drafts are) largely of New York Knicks fans.
"And thank you to our great fans, who tuned in for another extraordinary season," Stern said before briefly looking down at his podium and coming up for air with a smirk.
"... and saw the Miami Heat win its second NBA championship."
The boos reached another gear at the mention of the polarizing squad from South Beach, who easily dispatched the Knicks in the opening round en route to LeBron James' first NBA title. This very evidently pleased Stern a great deal; this is when he busted out that Hulk Hogan/Allen Iverson ear cup you saw up at the top of the post. It's weird that a 69-year-old man is one of sports' great trolls, but you'd be hard-pressed to find any more adept and committed to the premise of busting your chops than David Stern.
And, clearly, it works. As loud as the boos sounded on TV, the reaction inside the Prudential Center was even more vociferous, as evidenced by this fan's on-the-scene account from the balcony:
So many tones and timbres — it's a veritable symphony of boos. Such rich, varied texture; a fine tapestry of revulsion.
While the venom abated somewhat over the course of 29 picks, the fans inside the Prudential Center stepped it back up when it was time for the commissioner to announce the final selection of the first round (Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli, taken by the Golden State Warriors) and hand the draft's reins over to NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver to run the second round.
The Newark faithful sent off Stern and welcomed Silver in style:
"And I do want to thank all of you for your wonderful enthusiasm, and thanks to the Prudential Center for your hospitality," Stern said. "The second round of the 2012 NBA draft will be conducted by Deputy Commissioner of the NBA Adam Silver —"
And the crowd goes wild. For this guy. Just fantastic.
To his credit, Silver walked out onto that stage like a freakin' boss, soaking in the cheers, nodding to the crowd, smiling and thanking the diehards who stuck around for the second round before resorting to the oldest trick in the book — saying the name of the place you're in to get a cheap pop.
"Thank you — and hello to the great state of New Jersey!" Silver said, the crowd hilariously playing into it and increasing their applause before the announcement of the second round's first pick, which saw the Charlotte Bobcats take Vanderbilt small forward Jeffery Taylor.
To be sure, it is very weird, and probably at least a little bit troubling, that one of the NBA draft's grand traditions involves spewing unbridled bile at the guy who runs the league, then pulling a complete 180 to rain love down on his second-in-command. Especially now that Silver has replaced longtime second-round maestro Russ Granik, who'd at least built up a rapport with his adoring public over the years, and especially considering that Silver isn't exactly the cool, permissive counter to Stern's gruff, taskmaster of a patriarch — remember, Silver was actually the heavy on ownership's side in last offseason's lockout negotiations, which should still infuriate fans and should never stop doing so. (Never forget that we missed 16 games and watched a lot of bad, tired play at points this season. That didn't have to happen, and ownership's intractability's still the best place to point the finger.)
But whether it's weird, troubling or something else entirely, it's established fact, a comfortable rhythm into which we all fall seamlessly at the start of every draft, that we all seem to love and of which we never seem to tire. It calls to mind a line Chuck Klosterman wrote in his first book of essays about what's made Jim Rome's radio show successful — that Rome "aggressively accepts one very important truth: The single-best part about loving sports is hating sports." Whether or not you agree, David Stern sure seems to get what makes people feel that way. (Maybe that's why him and Rome don't get along.)
Stern screencap via the great @Jose3030. Video of Stern's full remarks via Jack Moore of BuzzFeed Sports. Video of Stern being booed from inside the arena via sgmgo5. Video of Stern's exit/Silver's entrance via BankyEdwards015.