David Stern hit some hot water during the Playoff in an interview with Jim Rome. Rome, in his ever-confrontational, smack-driven way, asked Stern how he would respond to those fans and observers who suspect the league rigs the lottery to get a result it wants.
Few are able to spar with Stern and come out looking victorious. Stern is well known for his quick wit and seemingly self-depricating responses to loaded questions. What he said to Rome when asked about the Draft Lottery was not funny and poorly illustrated his point. A rare slip up for the alway politically correct commissioner of the NBA.
“You know, I would do it again differently if I were asked the question,” Stern said on Mike Wise’s radio show in Washignton. “What can I tell you? I’m like LeBron. You get a day older, and you hope you get wiser rather than just older.”
Rome asked a question that was on a lot of conspiracy theorist’s minds — despite New Orleans’ relatively good chances at winning the lottery and the right to pick first in Thursday’s Draft. It was a fair question that was perhaps phrased incorrectly.
Stern made the bad question worse by asking Rome whether he still beats his wife. The point that was supposed to be illustrated was that Rome’s question was a loaded one. It assumed that the Lottery is rigged and gave Stern no good answer. He would be attacked no matter what he said.
Except the answer he gave did make things worse. So bad that he probably lost his point.
Let Stern try to explain a bit too late, perhaps:
“The problem is, given the members of the media — and this is not anti-media, this is just reality — if Brooklyn had won it they’d say you see, David‘s taking care of whatever. If the [Bobcats] had won it, people would say ah, he promised Michael Jordan when he became an owner they’d do this.
“I understand what’s happening. My only objection at the time was, your question phrases it in a certain way. But if you said to me directly is the lottery fixed, you would be implying that you believed it was fixed. Because you don’t need to make it part of the question. And so I sort of reacted, maybe overreacted. So I understand that. But a guy’s allowed to have some fun.”
Not quite fun. Not when you make comments like the ones Stern made. Even in jest, it was easy to take it a little out of context.
The event and what Stern said blew over and Stern did enough backtracking and burying to make it a relative non-issue.
More importantly for Stern, he seems to be realizing (long after everyone else) that perception is trumping reality when it comes to a lot of fans. And Stern’s tenure as commissioner will not end with this problem solved. That is a problem for Adam Silver, the presumptive successor for Stern.