During his 30-year stay as NBA commissioner, David Stern handed out some hefty punishment to those who ran afoul of him or the league. Mark Cuban and Ron Artest are both a lot lighter in the wallet thanks to Stern.
Michael Ray Richardson (1986): Nicknamed “Sugar Ray,” the former Warriors, Knicks and Nets guard showed incredible promise as a scorer and distributor, leading the league in both assists and steals and making four All-Star teams. A cocaine addict, he also failed three drug tests and was banned from the game for two years by David Stern in 1986. Upon his reinstatement in 1988 at age 32, NBA teams passed on rehiring Richardson. Michael Ray is now clean after battling relapses. – Kelly Dwyer Phoenix Suns (1987): An admitted cocaine user, swingman Walter Davis testified before a grand jury that several current and former Phoenix Suns players – James Edwards, Mike Bratz, Gar Heard, Jay Humphries and Grant Gondrezick – had used or were regular users of the drug. All five were indicted for various drug-related charges, but were not prosecuted. Sniffing out a witch hunt, Stern declined to suspend the rest of the players, all of whom tested clean by the NBA following the indictments. Davis was suspended for his relapse. – Kelly Dwyer Roy Tarpley (1995): A promising big man who ended his career with a double-double average, Tarpley was suspended from the NBA in 1991 for good for failing three drug tests, which piled on top of several DWI arrests. After three years of rehabilitation, Tarpley appealed the suspension in 1994, and returned to the Dallas Mavericks. He was then banned for life in 1995 for violating the terms of his reinstatement. Tarpley went on to an overseas career, and later sued the NBA under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case was settled out of court. – Kelly Dwyer New York Knicks (1997): Stern instituted a mandatory game-long suspension for any player that left the bench during a brawl after a scary Knicks/Chicago Bulls melee during the 1994 playoffs. Three years later, the Knicks were a championship contender and leading a 3-1 series they were upended by the underdog Miami Heat when Knick guard Charlie Ward was literally upended by P.J. Brown in Game 5. Several Knicks ran to the smaller Ward’s defense, and as a result Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston were suspended for Game 6, John Starks and Larry Johnson were suspended for Game 7, and Ward was out for both games. New York lost three in a row and the series. – Kelly Dwyer Joe Smith (2000): Just 3 1/2 years removed from being the top overall pick in the draft, Joe Smith shocked the NBA by signing as a free agent with the capped-out Minnesota Timberwolves for just $1.7 million. In the two offseasons following, Smith signed similarly modest deals so as to work with league rules that would allow him a massive contract extension in 2001. Strangely, the Timberwolves actually wrote down Smith’s illegal, wink-wink contract, which was later revealed to the league in an unrelated court dispute. Smith’s contract was voided in late 2000, the Wolves were fined $3.5 million dollars, team general manager Kevin McHale was suspended for a season, and Minnesota lost draft picks in the 2001, 2002 and 2004 drafts, hindering the team during Kevin Garnett’s prime. – Kelly Dwyer Mark Cuban (2001): It wasn’t his first fine, as Dallas owner Mark Cuban had already been fined three times to a total of $45,000 and had been told by Mavs coach Don Nelson that he was hurting the team by berating officials during and after games. Undeterred, Cuban asked that a freeze-frame picture of a missed goaltending call be shown on his team’s arena JumboTron following a loss to Detroit. The point was to embarrass the refs who had dared blown a call against his new toy. Cuban was fined $250,000 for the stunt, a league record at the time. – Kelly Dwyer Mark Cuban (2002): Undeterred, Cuban was fined three more times over the course of the next calendar year, and was hit with a $500,000 fine in May 2002 for telling the press that NBA director of officials Ed Rush’s “interest was not in the integrity of the game” and that Cuban “wouldn't hire him to manage a Dairy Queen.” Jokingly offended by the comments, Dairy Queen offered Cuban a managerial job for the day, and he happily showed up for the gig, camera crew in tow. – Kelly Dwyer Jeff Van Gundy (2005): Caught in the middle of a heated, eventual seven-game series loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy told assembled media that he claimed to have a source that gave him information regarding center Yao Ming and Mavs owner Mark Cuban. The referees had been influenced by Cuban to put increased emphasis on Yao’s fouling, the unnamed source supposedly said. Claiming that the integrity of the game had been put into question, Stern fined Van Gundy $100,000, a league record for a coach. – Kelly Dwyer San Antonio Spurs (2012): The NBA scheduled what turned out to be a preview of one of the most entertaining NBA Finals in history for its showcase Thursday night doubleheader on Nov. 29, but the San Antonio Spurs team that showed up to play the Miami Heat didn’t look anything like the one that played in the Finals 6 ½ months later. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, in the midst of a nine-month, 111-game exhibition, regular and postseason, sat Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili to rest their legs. Embarrassed and outraged, Stern fined the Spurs $250,000, in a move that was criticized by many. – Kelly Dwyer Malice at the Palace (2004): The Detroit Pistons were the defending champions and the Indiana Pacers were championship contenders when ESPN booked the two for a marquee showing on Friday night in Detroit. The Pacers were in the process of blowing out the home team when a scuffle between Ron Artest and Ben Wallace resulted in a fan throwing a drink at Artest. Artest charged after the wrong fan, several Pacers brawled with other fans, some of whom were storming the court, and nine spectators were injured. Six Pacers and three Pistons were suspended, including an eventual 86-game turn for Artest, in what was Stern’s low point as commissioner. – Kelly Dwyer