David Stern May Make $20 Million Per Year

David Stern (Reuters Photo) via Daylife.com

Let’s just dive right into the headline making headlines around every NBA blog.  Adrian Wojnarowski, in a blistering attack (what’s new?) on the NBA labor talks and David Stern, drops this little nugget on us about King Stern’s salary:

Stern doesn’t need to push his owners on revenue sharing – the most viable solution for long-term league solvency – when it’s so much easier to go after the players and shut the sport down. He’s taking the easy way out, but it’s understandable considering the staggering salary these owners pay him.

Strange, but the union never has the courage to bring up the mystery surrounding Stern’s salary. Many owners don’t even know what Stern makes. “I’d say three or less know,” one NBA owner told Yahoo! Sports. Several believe it’s somewhere in the range of $20 million to $23 million a year, but no one knows for sure. Maybe it’s more than that, but the fact that some owners don’t know the answer is beyond belief.

So with the new labor deal, the days of $20 million NBA players might be history.  But there will sit a commissioner who makes that himself.  Even as the sport cries about losing money, Stern will sit there and count bigger wads of cash than all but a handful of players. 

I get what Stern has done for the league.  He’s been a genius of a commissioner in many regards.  But he’s as responsible for the problems of today as he is responsible for the league’s successes.  It was Stern who created the system of highlighting individuals to promote the sport more effectively.  It was Stern who helped broker the current financial system.  And it’s Stern, as Woj writes, that’s pushing for the nuclear option in these talks. 

The reason for the union finally scheduling a meeting with the owners on Monday in New York City is simple: Union officials are trying to convince the players they’re doing something, but it’s worthless. This is a show. There’s nothing to negotiate, nothing to discuss. The NBA commissioner has made sure of it. Stern promised a new crop of owners that should they buy into the NBA, he’d give them the most one-sided labor deal in the history of sports. No fan has sympathy for these two sides, nor should they. Just understand this, though: When the NBA goes silent for a full year following a most wildly successful season, Stern will deserve full blame for the sport’s shutdown.

Here’s what I don’t get:  Why won’t the players just come out swinging?  Why won’t they come out and bury Stern in an avalanche of bad PR?  Is it because, for some reason, they think he’s popular?  Everywhere Stern turns, he’s booed by fans (example 1, 2, 3… and I’m sure someone who’s not as lazy as me could find more).

And do these players not understand that the rules in today’s world of social media have changed things?  It’s time to unleash a hellfire upon Stern that will turn the public sentiment against him and the owners.  Today’s world moves on Facebook and Twitter and other social media tools.  Players have spent the past couple of years turning using those tools amazingly to build their personal brands.  They know how to use these tools to their advantage.  And they know how Facebook and Twitter especially can turn public opinion in a matter of minutes.  

How quickly would an anti-Stern tweet from, say, Paul Pierce or Dwight Howard become a huge story?  Every blog in the world would pick it up.  It would be galvanizing.  You’ve only got one owner who knows how to use Twitter effectively.  And if he’s just backing the boss, it’ll barely be a blip in the headlines.  

If the players are going to get out of this negotiation with any semblance of a “win”, they’re going to have to fight for it.  Maybe it’s the veterans who have little to lose.  Maybe it’s the megastars who are the lynch-pin to the league’s future.  Whomever it is, the time to fight Stern is now, no matter how powerful he might seem.  If they don’t, they’re going to get steamrolled.  And that seems to be just what Stern wants.