Adam Silver Is Second To None
Evaluating Adam Silver's performance as a commissioner thus far

Say what you want about David Stern. Maybe he was the diabolical genius who helped kill Seattle's beloved Supersonics, or the mastermind marketer that evolved the NBA into a global enterprise. Opinions concerning Stern's tenure as league commissioner are all over the grading spectrum. However, there is one Stern decision no can question; he selected the right person to be his successor. 

In less than a year Adam Silver has proven he is qualified and well suited to handle the pressure that comes with the territory of being the commissioner of biggest basketball league on the planet. The job of NBA commissioner is a knotty one because he is both a boss (policy maker) and employee (owners' servant) all at once. Having unexpected obstacles and situations emerge certainly haven't made the job any smoother for Silver. Nonetheless, through it all, Silver kept a cool head in the public eye and taken care of business. Let us hark back to the great moves Silver has submitted thus far.

1.) Assisted in changing NBA Finals format

The 2-3-2 format was a great fit during the 1980s; transportation was increasingly slower, and the Lakers - Celtics long distance rivalry had become a common championship matchup. But over time this 2-3-2 format lost its significance. High speed jets were invented, while the Lakers have faced the Celtics only twice in the last 27 years. With every passing season, it evidently became clear that this format was a hinderance for the team holding home court advantage. There was an inordinate amount of pressure for the home court advantage teams to win the two opening games; losing at least one of those two games meant the home court advantage team would probably later on in the series return to its respective city on the brinks of elimination. 

When the rule to switch over to the 2-2-1-1-1 format was announced, Stern was still running the show on his way out the door. Silver, who was Stern's apprentice, had vocally been a proponent of ditching the 2-3-2 format. He lobbied for the futile rule to be overturned, and it project an attribute of good signs in Silver: he had forward thinking mind that didn't fear change. 


2.) The Donald Sterling predicament

Talk about being thrown to the wolves from the get go. Sterling's comments put Silver in the most uncomfortable situation in NBA commissioner history. On one side a disgruntled labor force was threatening to go on strike if Sterling wasn't exile from the Clipper's ownership. And on the other, stood the billionaire owners who were uneasy with the thought of ownership execution. Factor in the extensive media pressure and you have the prefect recipe for utter commissioner stressfulness. 

A weekend of speculation and anticipation, end on a Tuesday’s press conference in where Silver stretched the NBA constitution to its limits in order to hand Sterling the harshest punishment possible. Silver's resolution to the Sterling situation was phenomenal because his proclamation pleased everyone involved. The media lauded Silver's guts to discipline Sterling so severely. The players rejoiced upon hearing Sterling lost his privilege to step foot in an NBA arena for the rest of his life. League owners were convinced the removal of Sterling's ownership was in the best interest of the NBA's public image. 

Silver handled the crisis accordingly and diligently, but he still caught a huge break. Fortunately for Silver, he did not end up needing all the owners to submit official votes to complete the Sterling force sale of the Clippers. Instead, Shelly Sterling voluntarily pushed her husband out of the way to sell the franchise. Thereafter, Silver did not have to worry of a scenario where some of the owners actually would vote to keep Sterling in the league. Having owners vote pro-Sterling would have created another ugly situation for the incipient commissioner to deal with.


3.) Isaiah Austin's condition

The news of Austin's rare genetic disorder was saddening. It wasn't fair that Austin's eye illness, which is causing him to go blind, took away his opportunity to be a professional athlete playing the game he loved. Yes, Austin would have had a solid NBA career, but the most heartbreaking tenet that he didn't get to live his dream. Like millions of other kids, Austin spent a myriad of hours working on his game in the hopes of one day having his named called by the league commissioner during the NBA draft. His dedication and work ethic brought him within inches of making his NBA draft night dream a reality, and then for a reason completely out his control he never got to reach the finish line. 

Silver didn't need to do what he did for Austin in the middle of draft. He could have easily expressed his sorrow toward Austin and his family in a press conference. Putting the draft on hiatus to let Austin live out his lifelong aspiration wasn't a necessity; nevertheless, he went through with it anyways. 

Allowing Austin to walk draft stage after broadcasting that he’s been selected was a classy decision by Silver. The entire experience felt spontaneous and heartwarming; nothing on Silver's part made the sequences appear as staged; it came across an honest benevolent gesture for Austin. Silver, also, let it be known following the draft that he has offered Austin a job in the league.

Silver's course of action for the Austin situation painted the league in a suburb image. The NBA is primarily money driven business, but Silver, within a couple of minutes on draft night, demonstrated that underneath the billions of dollars the NBA does have heart of value and compassion. And that is always a phenomenal way to obtain good media publicity. 

4.) Reimbursement on Andrew Wiggins Cavalier jersey

The NBA has a rigorous standard. One of its rule is there will be no refunds for merchandise bought from the league store. Seldom does the league break any of its own mandates. Surprisingly, Silver went against his league's ordinance by offering to give all fans that bought a Cleveland Wiggins jersey a complete reimbursement. 

Silver once again displayed the league's generosity with this jersey refund move. The Wiggins Jersey buyers were hit with an abnormal situation - the number one pick was traded about two months following his selection. Silver recognized it was difficult to blame someone for not predicting such a fluky outcome, and decided the right thing to do was return the money. This reimbursement allowed Silver to show fans the league places a high value on consumer satisfaction. Silver knows being caring and understanding to your target audience creates stronger fan advocacy.

It's been a phenomenal start for commissioner Silver, one that is worthy of a standing ovation, but future challenges still remain. The collective bargaining agreement negotiations are volatile, and the current draft system is too flawed. These are a few of the problems Silver will have to wrestle. It's going to be a tough road, but Silver has shown he's prepared to deal with all obstacles thrown at him. 

It's safe to say the NBA is in good hands as long as Silver is running the show.

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