The following is an excerpt from a hypothetical, yet extremely fictional, counseling session with NBA commissioner David Stern.
Counselor: Why have you come here today, David?
David Stern: Look, I think when you’re the CEO of an industry overseeing $4 billion of revenue every year you are going to be dealing with issues.
C: What kind of issues, David?
DS: Image problems.
C: Well, a lot of people have body image issues David, especially when you are surrounded by all of those giants. I mean, Napoleon . . .
DS: Look, Quentin Tarantino couldn’t dream my problems up. I’m talking about guys in three-wheeled motorcycles strapped with shotguns in guitar cases and rolling around like Antonio Banderas. We’ve got a guy who calls himself “Hibachi” and another who calls himself “Birdman.” One’s got an itchy trigger finger, and I’m not talking about his proclivity for chucking 30 footers. The other guy is a former druggie with a mohawk, inked up to his neck.
C: His neck?
DS: Yeah. Get this, he has a tattoo of a bird on his neck, and when he blocks a shot, he coos like a bird. He has a teammate with a Transformers tattoo. Look, if these guys weren’t getting paid half of Slovakia’s GDP, I’d be arrested for exploiting these circus freaks.
C: That’s a little harsh wouldn’t you say? I mean, aren’t these eccentrics some of the more popular players in the NBA?
DS: Yeah, they are and that’s a whole different can of worms. You know, like a bird eating worms?
C: Not funny.
DS: But look, on top of all that, we can’t shake these conspiracy theorists.
C: You mean the ones who claim that the NBA is rigged? I mean, it does seem like they have an argument. And plus, Tim Donaghy, the guy who actually worked under the mob betting on games, said it was true.
DS: I’m not talking about that.
Look, we have more talent in the league than we’ve had in 20 years. And honestly, I don’t want to get into any pop-sociology discussion with you on the broader contexts of these issues. We’ve gone international, the pace of the game has improved and the skill of the players has improved. But teams are losing money, some are taking out loans and there are going to be issues with the luxury cap next season. Unfortunately, because of rising ticket prices and our image problems, we are losing the middle class.
C: But shouldn’t you be the one accountable for some of these problems? Aren’t Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson starting in the All-Star game?
DS: They have been great ambassadors to the sport, and we are simply complying with the will of our dedicated fans.
C: You mean, the hundreds of thousands of online Chinese voters?
DS: Their votes count just the same.
C: I’m a Phoenician, and I know there are a lot of Suns fans absolutely dying to meet you.
DS: See you at the U.S. Airways Center?
C: Only if I can roll with Delonte West.
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