Pelicans honor David Stern’s 30-year tenure
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
If there was doubt in anyone’s mind about how much has changed for the NBA in New Orleans over a three-year period, they only needed to join David Stern on his tour of the Pelicans’ new practice facility and renovated New Orleans Arena on Friday. Almost exactly three years after Stern and the league’s other 29 owners decided to intervene and purchase the then-Hornets, Stern received an up-close look at the Pelicans’ gleaming headquarters and home venue.
“It didn’t look so good (for the franchise),” Stern remembered of December 2010, when the NBA made the unprecedented decision to buy the club, thereby giving it a final chance to survive in the Gulf Coast. “But myself and the owners thought that with a period of time, we could shine it up.”
On Friday, Stern saw the ultimate dividends of the league’s belief in New Orleans, spending parts of the day in Metairie at the team’s 50,000-square-foot practice facility, then at the arena for a Lakers-Pelicans game. During the timeout between the first and second quarters of Friday’s game, Stern was presented with a navy blue Pelicans jersey, with the name “STERN” on the back and a No. 30 on the chest representing the 30 years that he will have served as commissioner when he retires Feb. 1. Stern was extremely complimentary of what he saw on his tour, praising the Pelicans’ new facilities.
“It is frankly off the charts,” Stern said. “You walk around this building and the training facility, it’s unbelievable. I see this as the icing on the cake (of the team staying in Louisiana long term), to see the investment that’s being made.”
Stern said he and the league strongly believed in supporting New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, an effort that has been part of the revitalization of the city during the eight years since the 2005 disaster.
“I really was the instrument of the league that felt the pain of New Orleans after Katrina,” Stern said. “We were determined to do our best to do everything possible to make sure that we would be a part of what we knew would be the growth and redemption of New Orleans. And we did it.”
As the NBA’s small market, New Orleans is an illustration for Stern of what a franchise can achieve off the court regardless of its demographics and size.
“I’ve spent a career making sure that franchises, regardless of their (city’s) size, could succeed in the NBA,” Stern said. “We very much would like to be a league where – whatever the size of the city – with sound ownership and good fan support, you can make it. This is just proof positive for us that it works.”