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The World According to David Stern
Jack McCallum
November 06, 2006
An SI writer was invited to join NBA commissioner David Stern's five-country, eight-game, seven-day tour of Europe last month, during which Stern schmoozed, cajoled, teased, challenged, lectured and charmed sponsors, corporate executives, players, coaches, NBA employees, journalists and fans. The writer also was the direct object of all the above verbs, especially teased.
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November 06, 2006

The World According To David Stern

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An SI writer was invited to join NBA commissioner David Stern's five-country, eight-game, seven-day tour of Europe last month, during which Stern schmoozed, cajoled, teased, challenged, lectured and charmed sponsors, corporate executives, players, coaches, NBA employees, journalists and fans. The writer also was the direct object of all the above verbs, especially teased.

"I saw you yawning just now," Stern said one day, "and I heard you snoring during the ride to the airport. Is this too much for you?"

"I heard you snoring too," the writer said.

"Yes, but I have an excuse," Stern answered. "Unlike you, I'm actually working."

DAWN, SOMEWHERE OVER RUSSIA. Cue a disembodied voice from the front of the private plane: "Harry (the Horse) Gallatin. Nat ( Sweetwater) Clifton. Kenny Sears. Carl Braun."

The other four passengers begin to stir. What's he talking about?

"Connie Simmons. Ray Felix. Richie Guerin. Dick McGuire."

The voice is flat and nasal, a New York City voice. The names are of assorted New York Knicks from the 1950s, the Knicks of David Stern, son of a Manhattan deli owner, graduate of Columbia Law School and a man whose bust would appear on a Mount Rushmore of league commissioners, right there next to Kenesaw Mountain Landis and Pete Rozelle.

Stern offers his early-morning litany to rouse himself between yawns and stretches. In the course of 60 hours he has flown across the Atlantic, taken a dozen meetings, answered questions at a half-dozen press conferences, shaken a thousand hands, signed a hundred autographs, witnessed basketball games in Barcelona and Rome and pressed the flesh at two postgame receptions. He has slept for 90 minutes of this 4 1/2-hour flight from Rome to Moscow (which turns into 5 1/2 hours because of fog), stretched out on the front couch of the Gulfstream-4, his feet resting on a mound of magazines (Variety, Forbes, Sports Business Journal) and newspapers (International Herald-Tribune, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal) that he has perused and gutted. "I'm an inveterate clipper," he says, showing a binder groaning with paper. He'll snip anything that draws his interest, particularly stories about the environment and medical breakthroughs--along with, of course, pieces on sports and business.

But an hour and a half of shut-eye is enough. Maybe not for the other passengers, all of whom are younger than the 64-year-old Stern, but enough for the commissioner, who seems to draw life from the enervation of others. "He crushes us," says Andrew Messick, senior vice president of NBA International and two decades Stern's junior. "Just crushes us."

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