This past weekend, David Stern retired as commissioner of the NBA.
After 30 years, he left as quietly as someone of his stature could. Instead of choosing a time where the NBA was in the spotlight to have his final farewell, Stern left in the middle of Super Bowl hoopla, when the coverage of his departure could only be brief.
The peculiar timing did cast some light on a few things, though. Stern will of course be remembered for cleaning up the league and making it profitable where it once wasn’t, but through both triumphs and mistakes, he always understood that he needed to make the game accessible for everyone.
This isn’t a concept the NFL has fully embraced.
There were more than a few examples present during the big game. One that stood out in particular was when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck read the Declaration of Independence pregame.
Aside from the slight irony of playing a game in London during the regular season and then reading that document before the championship, the whole thing served as another reminder of what the NFL’s primary agenda currently is.
That being said, let’s make this clear: the military should absolutely be honored, and America should be celebrated. This is not the issue.
The issue is that without reasonable moderation and without at least some detachment from the NFL brand, those acts begin to lose some of their integrity and meaning. When they’re done with the type of frequency the NFL does them, it’s hard not to see it for what it is.
More than anything else, the NFL uses Super Bowl Sunday to remind you that football is America, and America is football. They are made to be indistinguishable.
Because of this, in no way does the Super Bowl feel like a worldwide event. It’s televised around the world, naturally, but you could see how the event as a whole is isolating for international viewers. That seems especially true when there is nary a mention of international players or anything really of that ilk whatsoever. The most international flavor we got from the Super Bowl was a fan in the stands briefly being able to wave a Canadian flag after the first score. That was about it.
The NBA of course has built-in advantages with basketball being a much more popular sport around the world, but the NFL is years behind the NBA in the efforts to appeal to more than just American viewers.
Stern has a lot to do with that. In addition to his commitment to women’s basketball over the years, Stern always made it a priority for every major NBA event to celebrate all participants — not just Americans, but the players and fans around the world. The globalization of the NBA makes it what it is today, and that’s Stern’s crowning achievement.
You may not have loved Stern or all of his decisions, but the NBA is now a global sport. Here’s hoping the NFL tries a little harder in the future to be the same.
Celtics 96, Magic 89: This was Rajon Rondo’s best game since returning from ACL surgery — 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting, plus 10 assists, but more than that he was orchestrating the game like he used to — and not so coincidentally the Celtics got their first win since his return. Jared Sullinger added 21 for Boston. Orlando trailed most of the game but went on a 10-2 run in the fourth to make it interesting, but that run came from the bench and when the starters came back in they couldn’t get it over the top. Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 18.