With the NBA ready to kick off its 61st season, NBA Commissioner David Stern prepares for his 23rd run at the helm.
After a very successful 2005-06 season that saw record attendance numbers attained and capped off by perhaps the most exciting playoffs in league history, Commissioner Stern is excited to continue the momentum in 2006-07 and beyond.
The Commissioner took some time down in Miami on Oct. 31 -- where he was on hand to present the Heat with their championship rings later on in the evening -- to answer your questions from around the world.
Mr. Stern covered queries ranging from the new ball to potential expansion sites to the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas to sharing his favorite memory of the late, great Red Auerbach.
See what he had to say about the state of the league, the stars on the rise, and much, much more:
Rob, Miami, FL: I know you must be saddened by the passing of Red Auerbach. What is your favorite memory of Red?
David Stern: My favorite memory of Red is calling him once and saying, "Red, they want us to raise the baskets because the big players have too much of an advantage. What do you think?" He said, "Well, listen, stupid," that's what he called me, stupid. He said, "If they raise the baskets, they're going to miss more shots, right?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Now who's going to get the rebounds?" And I said, "The big guys." He says, "OK, stupid, now get rid of that idea." I said, "Thank you, Red, I appreciate your firm advice." He was a great fan and a great friend.
Matt, Portland, OR: A lot of people probably don't know your main duties as Commissioner, what one aspect of your job would you say is of most importance to the league?
David Stern: I would say the most important is the guardianship of the game ... Its rules, its enforcement, its integrity and making sure it remains the great game that it is. Everything we do; all of the business, all of the events, all of the television, all of the international, all of the merchandise, it all flows from the same thing and that's the game and it's at the center of what we do.
Cam, Los Angeles, CA: Mr. Stern - Why have you chosen to stick with the new NBA ball after all of the complaints that have followed its release? On a similar note, have you noticed a decline in the players' complaints after they've had a chance to play with that throughout the preseason? Might I add that I've purchased the new NBA game ball and I absolutely love it. Thank you, Commissioner.
David Stern: I apologize to you, we should have had a ball here, I could be holding it for you. I would say, that I learned a lot in this process. First I learned that every leather ball is different. That's why people touch it. That's why players go over, referees go over, they're looking for exactly the right one. They bounce differently. They rebound differently. They feel different. They shoot different. And over the years we've decided that that isn't a good thing. So, we've looked for a ball that will be the same when it's taken out of the box and after it's been played with awhile. The new ball is just that. Within every test it is consistent. It isn't the same as any one of those other 20 leather balls, but it's the same as every other microfiber and it's consistently good. During the preseason, I would say we had an increase in scoring, a little increase in shooting percentage (over) 100 games. Our players are great, they'll adjust and I think they're going to really like it.
Anonymous, Houston, TX: Hello Commissioner Stern. Will the Basketball without Borders program ever include the Caribbean?
David Stern: Absolutely. The Caribbean has produced some important basketball players for us. It's a very interesting place to visit. It's got a great population and they're interested in basketball. We will be doing one there, I think in the next two years. Exactly where? I can't say right now, but it's a topic of some interest to us.
Andrew, Canada: Mr. Stern, I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Raptors and all the international flavor they've brought in this year
David Stern: I think that Bryan Colangelo has done a great job in Toronto. It isn't just the international flavor. I'm not sure how I pronounce it ... Garbajosa? Bargnani, Calderon and others including players like Anthony Parker who played successfully in Israel. I would say that they put together a very talented team and I know there is great excitement. I'm looking to be there opening night, Friday, in Toronto.
Rob, Melbourne, Australia: Hi, I'm a massive NBA fan and being an Aussie, I'm a huge fan of Andrew Bogut. In recent years the NBA has gone global to promote the game and I wanted to ask if there was a chance of any teams coming Down Under in the near future to play some exhibitions games against our local NBL teams?
David Stern: First of all, I was going to say, "Thank you for getting up so early." But, I guess it's 14 hours (time difference) so it's only approaching eight o'clock, so not so early. I would say that Australia has always been a market of some interest to us. It was one of our earliest offices that we opened up. But, it's hard in terms of travel and it's hard to figure out precisely the right schedule. So, we don't have anything on the drawing board right now, but we have been discussing how we can put Australia into the rotation for a visit of some kind from NBA with respect to a clinic, with respect to an exhibition game and maybe even the possibility of some interplay between our NBDL and your NBL because Australia is producing some pretty interesting players for us.
Barcelona, Spain: Hi David, I'm a Spanish fan who loves NBA basketball. I've heard of the idea that you're considering setting NBA franchises in Europe and I would like to ask, if the idea worked, how would these franchises exist?
David Stern: Well, I think it's some time off, but, if there were the right cities, the right owners and the right owners and ... There has been a sort of general proposal that there be a five-team division and that division would rotate between the Eastern and Western conferences to even things out over the years. And that NBA teams would go to Europe, and they could, from the other conference let's say, they could go there, they could play five teams and from their own conference they could go there and play five teams and then play those five teams again. So, that there would only be one trip by our teams to Europe. It's not a difficult trip at all. Our players do it. All of us do it. But, I think some day, probably quite a bit in the future, that would come to pass.
Daniel, Grand Forks, ND: Is there any chance the D-League will become more like MLB's minor league system in which each NBA team would have the sole rights to the players on their D-League team?
David Stern: Well that requires collective bargaining. And right now, we're actually going to have 12 teams this year. But it is ramping up. The Lakers are going to operate a team. They are the first of our teams to operate, and I think by next season there will be atleast one more, and possibly two. But, in a funny way, I like the rule that says you can only control the rights to the players on your roster in the NBA. So, if you're an NBA team, you can send down your first and second year players, and since you can have 15 players on your roster -- NBA roster -- only 12 can suit up. That gives you the potential for sending down three players. All the other players, who will have presumably have been waived or ignored by other teams, I think should have the right to be brought up by any team that wants them, or that needs them, so you don't wind up having players locked in to teams. I kind of like the system we have. Perhaps there should be some modification over time, but I don't think too dramatic.
Adam, Middlebury, VT: Hi, Commissioner Stern. I blog about the NBA and mostly read other blogs on sports. What do you think of blogs, and what do you think is the best way to cover the NBA on a blog?
David Stern: Boy, there's too much to read already, but I love the fact that people blog. People get on. They communicate with the community. And, to me, I don't think there is any perfect way. I think the opportunity to talk in any community about basketball ... There are more NBA videos on YouTube than any place else. We get more visits from people who start out the day on MySpace. We get lots from Google. We get lots of bloggers who come in off their own blogs ... I don't think there is any particular way to do it. I just am thankful that you're a fan and you take the time to write about our game.
Vince, Toronto : Where do you see the NBA in the next 5-to-10 years?
David Stern: In 5-to-10 years, Vince, I think it's going to be very much the same. 30 teams here, I'll probably be wrong, but, 30 teams here ... More international players as the game gets better ... A much more expansive Development League, which like the earlier questioner recognized would be sort of like the Triple-A to the NBA ... And perhaps NBAs of China or NBAs of Latin America, not necessarily franchises, but leagues operated under the guidance of the NBA because I believe that there are going to be so many elite athletes playing basketball as opposed to soccer that they're going to be pressured to start new leagues around the world.
Roger, Detroit: Commissioner Stern, first of all, it's quite an honor to be chatting with you, sir. You've done a wonderful job as Commissioner. I'm wondering, has the NBA decided where the 2009 All-Star Game will be? Maybe Detroit?
David Stern: Cousin Roger, I want to thank you for those kind words. I would say that, honestly, we haven't made the decision yet on 2009. We're awfully happy with our selection of Las Vegas right now, and we're very happy with our selection of New Orleans. We're just now sort of beginning to process for 2009-10. But, Las Vegas does give us the option, now that we've done it once, of going to non-NBA cities. There has been some pressure on us to go outside the US, but I'm not ready to suggest that to anybody. But, we're going to look and see what the best possible result is for the 2009 All-Star Game, and beyond.
Zack, Boston, MA: Commissioner, do you think you will ever let high schoolers back in the NBA Draft?
David Stern: Well, I don't know anything about let back in. I guess I would say, by collective bargaining, the entry age into the NBA is now one year out of high school and 19 (years old). Myself, I'm not in favor of lowering it. If anything, I'd love to raise it. I think we're going to see some enormous talent playing varsity basketball as freshmen this year at elite institutions. The ones that are great, great and want to jump out to the NBA, we're going to welcome. And the ones that think maybe they learned enough about their talent that they're not quite ready, stay for some more time in college, I think that's great. So, we like at least a 19-year-old entry age that we have.
Jonathan, Tallahassee, FL: What was your reasoning in restricting athletic tights for this upcoming season?
David Stern: You know, the reasoning was that they had become fashion rather than used for medical purposes and we started to look like something other than a league that had uniforms. It was OK when one person wore his tights, but I think it got a little bit out of control, and if we didn't sort of "tighten up" the rule, pardon the pun, we probably would have had everybody running around in different colored tights. So, we're not doing anything other than putting the uniform back in uniform.
Rick, Charlotte, NC : Hello, Commissioner Stern. How are you? It is an honor to chat with you. What are your expectations for this season?
David Stern: Hi Rick. Thanks. My expectations are that although Carmelo, LeBron and Dwyane got all of the sort of seemingly "pub" in the preseason about these great young players ... And they are. But, there is another group ... There are like four other groups, just to be quick; you got the youngsters like Chris Paul and Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard who are, I think, ready for stardom and All-Star opportunities ... You've got the established veterans; Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, and I'm leaving people out ... What are you talking about? You know? ... You've got the exciting teams; Phoenix with Amare back and Steve Nash in fine form ... You've got Chicago with Ben Wallace and a very balanced attack ... And then you've got this cadre of international players as well; Pau Gasol, unfortunately injured to start the season, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker ... I mean, there is so many groups, pockets, legions of spectacular players that I think this is going to be the year when our fans say, "Boy, every team that is coming into our city or every team that's on TV has two or three players that I really want to see." And they're going to see actually more than two or three on a team that are spectacular players.
Jorge, Brazil Did you ever see yourself in this position, as Commissioner, down the road where the league is so successful both financially, and in popularity?
David Stern: Jorge, thanks for being here. The answer is no. In 1984, when I became Commissioner, I didn't anticipate the success that the NBA would have. I didn't anticipate being here for 22 years. This is now my 23rd season and I didn't anticipate the good luck of being in the league at the time when Larry, and Magic, and Michael and Isiah ... To the present players and the growth in television, and buildings, and sports marketing and international ... would all come together to give us the opportunity to hope that someday we would be the most successful and respected basketball league in the world.
Anonymous, Mexico Is it true that the NBA is trying to bring a team to Mexico?
David Stern: Actually, it is not true that we're trying to bring a team to Mexico. I think that we have discussed the fact that Mexico would be an interesting prospect for expansion -- either Mexico City or Monterrey, which has a new building. But right now we're happy to be playing exhibition games in Mexico. No plans for a location of an NBA team there.
Dave, Dallas, TX Commissioner Stern, in your opinion, what separates the NBA as the best available sports product available to fans when compared to other leagues?
David Stern: Well, I don't want to put down other leagues. All I'll say about the NBA is, we have a sport in which we're enormously proud, whose players serve their community and are passionate about the game, engage with their fans, and, we have the best seat in sports. That courtside seat, watching our players running around in shorts and a tank top, close-up -- no helmets, no hats, no long sleeves, no pants -- is really the best seat in sports and the television camera replicates that seat, so we look great on TV. If I sound prejudiced, of course I am, Dave.
Shereef, Los Angeles, CA Commissioner Stern, FIFA has said it will sanction any team for World Cup play if it allows fans to yell racial epithets at players. In light of the Dikembe Mutombo situation, it seems like the NBA will take the hard-line stance on this. I did read actions taken against the fan, but should the team itself face the consequences?
David Stern: I don't think the team itself should face consequences. I think the team really led the way in sanctioning the fan, with the NBA. I think that what this shows is that the NBA and our teams are serious about fan behavior. Its not just about the players. It's about coming into our buildings and making those places where kids and families can enjoy the games with everybody else. We're going to continue to monitor fan activity to make sure our arenas are places where people want to come.
Jonathan, Tallahassee, FL What are the chances we see adjustments made to the current salary cap and luxury-tax structure when the next collective bargaining agreement is made?
David Stern: Boy, I'm sure the owners will want to tighten it and the players will want to loosen it. I can't wait for the negotiation. I don't think there will be any great changes. It's been a pretty good system. I would say it's a little rich, but I always say that. In terms of allowing teams to make money ... I think the 57 percent is a high percentage for our setup, but overall the salary cap has been good for the league and for the players.
Josh Now that the All-Star game is taking place in Las Vegas, what are the chances of an NBA franchise moving there or starting there?
David Stern: Well, we have historically been against having a team in Las Vegas as long as they continue to take betting on NBA games. It's up to the owners ultimately to decide where that's a policy they want to continue, but I don't see any change in that policy in the short term. But, I've been wrong before.
Al, Sacramento, CA Would you ever consider going back to a best-of-five series in the first round of the playoffs?
David Stern: I can say that neither the owners nor the players have any interest in doing that, Al. So, I don't think its going to happen.
Tyler, Vancouver Mr. Stern, with 30 teams in the NBA will there be more expansion teams come in?
David Stern: I don't think we're going to be expanding. I think we've got enough teams, there may be some movement of teams over the years, but, if you were asking me to predict, I don't see the NBA owners voting to expand anytime soon.
Germany Mr. Stern, I wonder if you're a basketball aficionado or do you like the economic aspects of the game more?
David Stern: I would say that, as I answered earlier, I'm a fan first. It's all about the game. If the game isn't there, the economic aspects don't mean a lot. The opportunity to see our sport grow on a global basis, to see the values inherent in our sport, the great play, the athleticism ... To see the rules, the sportsmanship, the teamwork and alike; it excites me not only for the NBA and basketball, but for the power of sports.
David Stern: Thank you to all of our fans, obviously from around the world, who took the time send their questions. And let us know, on NBA.com I guess, if you liked it. Because, if you do, I'll try to do this on a regular basis. Welcome, again, to our season and thanks for your interest.