If there is one thing we can learn from sports, it is that nothing lasts forever. Babe Dahlgren replaced Lou Gehrig as the New York Yankees first baseman. Jimmy Johnson replaced Tom Landry as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
In the NBA, David Stern stepped down as commissioner on Feb. 1, 30 years to the day since he took office, and was succeeded by Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.
During his tenure, Stern saw the league add seven franchises to 30, establish itself as a major attraction for networks, media and marketers and built its brand — and the brand of such players as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James — worldwide. He also was present for four lockouts, the relocation of six franchises and the need for stronger drug testing and on- and off-court rules of behavior.
"Commissioner Stern has had an amazing run over the past 30 years, when you look at how the league has grown and, from our perspective, how its role on TV and among its media partners has grown," said Christina Miller, senior vice president-programming of marketing and strategy for Turner Sports and general manager for NBA Digital. "There are players in the league who were born after he became commissioner. But with Adam SIlver moving from deputy commissioner, a position he has had for [seven] years, we see a seamless changeover."
According to Miller, Silver "has learned from Commissioner Stern, and he has had an active role in the growth of the league. You have to give the NBA a ton of credit when you see how smooth the transition has been."
"The NBA is very open in saying, ‘We want to work with forward-thinking partners, to collaborate in ways that advance both the NBA brand and the brands with which they are working,’" said Tim Van Hoof, assistant vice president of marketing for State Farm, an official NBA partner since 2010. "From using technology to reaching a different audience than a lot of other sports properties and properties in general, they have been fantastic partner.
"You have to give David Stern credit for leading that charge," said van Hoof. "And when you talk about moving forward, Adam Silver is cued up to run with it to wherever the next level is. So, quite frankly, we're very excited about the health of this new leadership team."
Silver himself talked about the historic transition during the NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans earlier this month.
"It is my obligation and the obligation of the people at the league office through any transition to take a fresh look at everything we do," said Silver. "I'm not suggesting a different approach than David Stern ever had. He taught me, and that's how he always looked at things as well."
Among the changes that might come: sponsor logos on jerseys.
"There's a pool of advertising money out there," said Silver. "Our goal through putting sponsorships on jerseys is to expand it. But I want to make sure our television partners are comfortable with that, as well. Our experience has been that when companies want to be represented, it's usually in more of an integrated buy. It's unusual that a sponsor would choose to only be represented on a jersey and not in commercial time and not in courtside signage and not in the arena and in other ways. But it's something we're looking at."
According to Miller, the NBA will continue to grow under the leadership of Silver.
"From where I sit on the digital side, I believe he sees the vision for the business of technology, the Internet, mobile and all the other growing and emerging elements as continuing to be very important to the expansion of the NBA," said Miller. "He has a vision of where the NBA will be next, and he has the full support of [David] Stern as well as the leaders in the league who selected him to succeed Commissioner Stern. So the future looks bright."