x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Is Stern getting a little too stern?

I am worried about David Stern, the NBA commissioner. A week ago he celebrated doing business with a questionable Russian business mogul.

I am worried about David Stern, the NBA commissioner. A week ago he celebrated doing business with a questionable Russian business mogul. This same Russian, Mikhail Prokhorov, was asked by the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, to cut ties with the Russia basketball team CSKA Moscow. Figure that one out. He is deemed not suitable to own a team in the basketball bush leagues of Europe but he is good enough for the NBA?

For a company like the NBA that stresses family entertainment and doing good deeds "for the kids," selling an NBA owners' club membership to a guy like Prokhorov is puzzling. The league has also decided to institute fines for players who stand up excessively during a game. This one takes the prize. I had accepted the league's dress code rule. Several teams in several different team sports have formal dress codes.

But the latest edict from head office strikes me, and almost everyone I have spoken to, as excessively cranky. On the one hand, I can appreciate the situation faced by those who sit behind the team benches. The players are so freakishly big that they do make it hard to see the court if you happen to be sitting behind them. The question Stern should be asking is: why do some of his customers spend oodles of money to sit in the obstructed-viewing areas behind the benches?

The answer strikes me as obvious. These people could afford to sit in seats with better sight lines; however they choose to sit where they do to be close to the players. If they wanted a better view, they could buy different tickets. Last time I checked, there was no shortage of empty seats in NBA arenas. The NBA's decision seems like something out of a communist handbook on bureaucracy. The league creates one new rule after another. At what point will the NBA focus on more important issues such as the game itself?

Is this "no standing" rule just a way to detract attention from the fact that the NBA's referees are locked out? I now tend to regard Stern as a curmudgeon who sits in his office tower in New York City, micro-managing the league that he helped to build. Perhaps he needs a new hobby. As a fan of the game, I hope that Stern has the situation under control. He deserves all the credit in the world for developing the league into a first-class operation.

He has run the business with an iron fist for decades and is showing no signs of letting up. Perhaps this latest rule is just another way to remind his employees that he still runs the show. Another theory I have is that this is a "regressive tax" on the players. Every player will eventually stand up, stretch and cheer on his teammates. The players will inevitably get fined from time to time for one infraction or another. Could it be that Stern is now looking at non-traditional ways to generate income, a result of the ongoing financial crisis?

The one problem with the way Stern operates is that he is the king. From the sounds of it, he likes being king and, quite frankly, he has been very good as king. Monarchies do stand the test of time but dictators do not. Eventually, though, Stern is going to try to enforce some rule that will undermine his credibility. When that happens, he will be opening the door for a coup. @Email:gdole@thenational.ae