Just a few years ago, he was the coolest commish in the game, down like four slashed tires. Then after the Sprewell incident, David Stern started to change. The latest info coming out of the NBA is that Stern in light of the murder of Denver Broncos defensive back Darrent Williams is going to create a list of clubs and spots in NBA cities that players will be forbidden to go to during the season. If they are spotted at those spots, they'll be fined big time. Public opinion: OK, now he's gone too far. He might be approaching G.W. Bush's approval ratings.
How can we save David Stern? By creating another one. An alter ego. One based on the commish we wish he was, one that he probably is when he's around his crew but can't display in public. So in honor of Lil' Penny, Mars Blackmon, and Thirst, we decided to invent the other David Stern: aka DJS. One who is totally in touch with the players in his league; one who rocks Sean John suits, instead of Armani; one who would have Talib Kweli perform at All-Star halftimes instead of Cowboy Troy; one who seems more concerned with being Robin Hood instead of robbin' the hood.
Q: DJS ... Can I call you DJS
DJS: Mr. DJS is cool.
Q: OK, DJS, as commissioner of the NBA your job is to do what?
DJS: Make sure that the league remains attractive to the global audience and businesses that I feel have our best interest at heart.
Q: That's PC and all, but there have been a lot of things that have happened over the last few years that have made many people question your allegiance to the players. All these years everyone thought you were down, that you understood the hood, but as of late, it's like all of a sudden you turned Omarosa on the league.
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Is it the real David Stern? Or his alter ego?
DJS: You got it severely twisted. Every action I make is for the betterment and protection of this league, homey. Maybe you couldn't comprehend what I was trying to present to your mind when I said "for those that I feel have our best interest at heart." In other words, I shape this league for those who I feel got my back.
Q: So giving Melo 15 games? Who had your back on that?
DJS: That was for the Knicks. They feel that I screwed them over on the Larry Brown thing so I figured not taking Isiah to task for sending out a "hit" and suspending the Nuggets players more than I did the Knicks players would get me squared with them. NY has always had my back. Bloomberg!!! Sorry. I do that every now and then.
Q: I get it. But what about all of the other things. Let's go down the line: the age limit.
DJS: Well, I had to do something about that. It was straight gettin' outta hand. LeBron's a nice kid and all and he can ball, but dude, let's be real, it started to get to a point where cats who weren't averaging 15-a-game in places like Jersey no disrespect, East Rutherford and Backwater, Florida, were coming into the league straight after prom. Now I'm the last person to knock the next man's hustle, but not on my watch!
Q: But at some point don't you think your mandate is punishing the kids instead of the ones who should be punished, the owners who were damn near forcing these kids to come out by drafting them so high and so frequently?
DJS: Now I've heard that argument many times and back in the day that's probably an approach I would have rolled with. But now, I can't do things like that anymore. The league is high profile now and teams ain't worth $12M's, they're starting at $350 million. So I can't punish those dudes like that anymore and hold them accountable even though I know I should put some of the responsibility on them. But ever since I put that luxury-tax in place and made them take a hit for going over their salary caps, dude, you have no idea how much drama that caused me with them.
Q: Dress code.
DJS: Yo, that wasn't me that was them, the players. They brought that on themselves. I'm not taking the heat for that one. Did you see the way Mateen Cleaves was coming to games?!? C'mon, man, what would you do if you was me? I was begging every team he was on to take him off of the injured reserve list just so no one had to see him on the bench in what he called his street clothes. And I'm not even going to start with Damon Jones.
Q: A lot of people felt you directed that personally at Allen Iverson.
DJS: Wrong again. Lemme tell you something. In my mind Allen Iverson is one of the best-dressed superstars we have in America. His gear is always connected, always fresh, like the tags haven't been popped. And I wish I had his style. Now I appreciate a good suit, don't get me wrong, but I also have a great appreciation for those who take clothes and style seriously. And for me, there were too many players trying to be Allen Iverson but couldn't pull it off. That's why I dropped the dress code provisions in the agreement.
Q: Yeah, that was a slick move.
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Imagine the uproar if Tank Johnson played in the NBA.
DJS: I know it was slick and shady for me to hide it inside of a collective bargaining agreement that was attached to other things that would determine whether or not we'd have a season, but you have to remember, I'm still a lawyer by trade. I still got moves.
Q: And what about the switch to the new ball?
DJS: I'd rather not discuss that. I'll say this: Once they threw that potential labor-force lawsuit out there, I knew I was done. Had to take an "L" on that one.
DJS: What about 'em?
Q: People said they knew you were changing, that something was wrong with you when The Brawl broke out. They said that wasn't the "real" you who came down with the gauntlet on that. Because back in the day, you used to love a good fight.
DJS: Yeah, that used to be part of the whole marketing plan when the players couldn't really shoot, and scoring was in the 80s. Man, I used to love those Piston/Knicks/Bulls/Heat battles. Anytime Oakley was on the floor in the playoffs a fight was guaranteed to jump off. Those were the days! Ratings out the roof!
Q: I know, but what happened?
DJS: The black people started complaining. Said we I was making black ballplayers look like animals. That I was becoming responsible for perpetuating a stereotype of the angry black man. So I just threw my hands up, like, I can't win. So when The Brawl at the Palace happened I was in my "a'ight I'm gonna give y'all what you asked for" mode. Now I can't sit here and say that that was my finest hour, but like the O'Jays said, "Give the people what they want." And I did. RIP: Gerald Levert. I had to throw that in.
Q: The quick whistles on techs from the refs this season.
DJS: Yeah, I heard that whole argument about not allowing the players to be creative and how I'm handcuffing their right to expression ... whatever. I got tired of the whining. Seriously. The league was beginning to look like a bunch of wusses, 300 Adam Morrisons with three seconds left on the clock. It was bad enough that my league was being painted as a collection of overpaid pampered thugs.
Q: The crackdown on the clubs. Now, even you have to admit that you may be going too far with this one.
DJS: Look man, I can't afford to have that type of drama in my league. The NFL can skate on situations like that. A Ray Lewis situation can happen and it doesn't affect the NFL, a Tank Johnson situation can happen and it doesn't affect the NFL, every player on the Cincinnati Bengals can get arrested and it doesn't affect the NFL. But with the NBA, if one of our players runs a stoplight ...
Q: Or throws a punch in a game ...
DJS: Exactly! You feel me? So when the incident that got Darrent Williams shot, in the same city where Julius Hodge of the Nuggets got shot a year before, I was like, "OK, David J, time to get drastic." So no, I don't think I'm going too far. I'm just being preventive. Try'na stop something before it might start. Just like the rationale Bush used to invade Iraq but with more concrete evidence.
Q: So, DJS ...
DJS: I'm tellin' you man, it's Mister, like Allen Iverson's little brother.
Q: My bad, Mr. DJS, in the Wall Street Journal interview you said "Welcome to my world." Explain that.
DJS: My world is different. Almost impossible for anyone to understand. It's split in two. It's almost like a double life I lead. I have to keep players like LeBron James happy and at the same time look out for the best interests of people like the Maloofs in Las Vegas excuse me, Sacramento; that was a slip, don't print that and Glen Taylor in Minnesota. I can't be too corporate because then the players don't think I have their best interests at heart, and I have to act like I hate the players' lifestyle or the owners won't think that I'm not working on their behalf and don't have their backs. I have to satisfy multi-million dollar companies with the product I put on the floor but at the same time I have to embrace the street cred of that product so I don't lose the kid in Inglewood or South Philly whose only connection to life outside the hood is through the NBA. I have to worry about what hairstyles Chris Kaman and Ron Artest are going to come with next. And in between all of that people still believe every playoff game is fixed. That I have a hand in who's going to win, that I control the outcome. You all don't understand. I wouldn't wish my life on anyone. Not even Mark Cuban.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He'll also be the host of ESPN Original Entertainment's "NBA Live: Bring It Home" which debuts on Feb. 11. Sound off to Scoop and Page 2 here.