I have a bit of experience dealing with NBA commissioner David Stern. During an appearance together on “Keep Hope Alive with Rev. Jesse Jackson,” Stern and I were on to debate the findings of a research study which showed that NBA referees call more fouls on black players than white ones. I’ve never liked David Stern very much, and I didn’t like him that day. In some ways, Stern has turned the NBA into the ultimate plantation, controlling the behavior, dress and actions of athletes like they are a pack of dysfunctional hood monkeys, instead of the rational human beings that most of them are. But I have to give credit where credit is due. During the interview with Rev. Jackson, I was amazed at how David Stern took the high quality research of an incredibly well-trained University of Pennsylvania statistician and made him look like a common quack. In just a short sequence of sound bites, Stern neutralized 10 years of post-secondary education at the best universities in the world, and turned lies into the truth. Although Stern couldn’t break down my arguments, he ate the U. Penn Professor (who had very little media training) for lunch and didn’t even pick his teeth afterward.
That’s what David Stern does, he’s a monster. He has crushed any player or entity choosing to disrupt his brand, and he runs one of the tightest corporate ships in America. He even wiggled his way out of a gambling scandal by an NBA referee who admitted to fixing games. Again, I don’t like David Stern, but I am impressed with the way he handles his business.
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In light of his past, I am sure we’ll all be affected by how David Stern handles the recent situation with NBA star Gilbert Arenas. According to media reports, Arenas allegedly pulled a gun out on teammate Javaris Crittenton in a dispute about an unresolved gambling debt. Of course everyone is denying that anything happened, but the NBA always gets to the bottom of things.
After hearing about Gilbert Arenas’ current “situation,” I thought about the scene in the movie, “Menace 2 Society,” where a cop is sitting across the table from Larenz Tate. In the scene, the cop stares Tate down and says, “You know you done f*cked up don’t ya?” Arenas has clearly messed up, and his standing as an NBA superstar is now in serious jeopardy. David Stern doesn’t take kindly to anyone who undermines the brand of the NBA, and he will likely put the hammer of heaven and earth down on Arenas if his behavior can be proven.
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David Stern is on a mission and he is likely to succeed. His goal is to create a strong global presence for the NBA, with just as many fans in China and Japan as he has in the United States. In fact, I suspect that China has now surpassed the US in NBA viewership. When I visited Shanghai in 2005, nearly every Chinese boy played basketball and the NBA finals were on all the television sets on the campus on which I was teaching. Stern is set to take over the world, and he is not going to allow Gilbert’s antics to get in the way.
Expect to see long suspensions and huge fines. You will also see Gilbert’s face removed from many of the promotions for the NBA and the Washington Wizards. Rules will be changed, committees will be created, and additional oversight will be approved. Stern is going to get every bit as “gangsta” on Gilbert Arenas as Gilbert might have been on his teammate. The last thing that David Stern wants on his watch is for one NBA player to shoot another player in the locker room; that would be disastrous.
My personal opinion: If Gilbert Arenas did engage in this kind of behavior, he needs to be slapped. Grow up homeboy, you’re not a little kid anymore. Life is too short to be stupid.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered directly to your email, please click here.
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