Ex-com­mish Stern bullish on league

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - SPORTS - By Brian Ma­honey

NEW YORK » David Stern hasn’t left the NBA far be­hind. Just a few blocks, ac­tu­ally.

His of­fice these days is lo­cated in a build­ing near the one he had as com­mis­sioner, the job he left in 2014 af­ter 30 years in which he helped turn a strug­gling league into a $5 bil­lion an­nual be­he­moth.

For the most part, he likes the di­rec­tion of the league the last three years.

“In ad­di­tion to the tal­ent, I’m in awe of the shoot­ing skills of Steph Curry, of Klay Thomp­son, of a (Rus­sell) West­brook and a (James) Har­den, et cetera,” Stern told The As­so­ci­ated Press by phone. “But I’m also in awe of the po­ten­tial the league has both dig­i­tally and glob­ally. So the game is strong, the at­ten­dance is at a record, the fu­ture is ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­na­tion­ally and the league is a leader un­der Adam (Sil­ver) in the dig­i­tal sphere.

“So it’s re­ally a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for the own­ers, for the play­ers, and for my for­mer col­leagues at the team and league level.”

Stern, as would be ex­pected, is keenly aware that it hasn’t been smooth sail­ing for Sil­ver and the league. The NBA is still search­ing for so­lu­tions to some prob­lems that were vex­ing un­der Stern, such as tank­ing and healthy play­ers sit­ting out games.

He talks with Sil­ver, but won’t com­ment on their dis­cus­sions about those is­sues or any­thing else.

“That would in­volve the com­mis­sioner slash com­mis­sioner emer­i­tus priv­i­lege,” he said.

Stern, 74, is more busi­ness­man than sports­man now, ad­vis­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal firms from his po­si­tion atop DJS Global Ad­vi­sors and in­vest­ing in a num­ber of star­tups, some of them in sports tech­nol­ogy. He still watches plenty of games, and the view­ing process helps guide his in­vest­ment strate­gies.

The league that once begged for a tele­vi­sion pres­ence — the NBA Fi­nals that were some­times shown on tape de­lay into the early 1980s — now has na­tional TV deals that are worth more than $2.6 bil­lion an­nu­ally. But fans aren’t just watch­ing games on TV any­more, and Stern be­lieves their view­ing habits will change even more in the com­ing years. “The fans are go­ing to want to

to see be able to see what they want to see, when they want to see it and on any de­vice they want to see it on,” he said.

Stern be­lieves view­ers will fa­vor stream­ing ser­vices and vir­tual real­ity, with out­put from wear­able tech­nol­ogy to pro­vide sta­tis­ti­cal data to aug­ment what they’re watch­ing. So this week he and a group of part­ners that in­cludes Syra­cuse coach Jim Boe­heim an­nounced the launch of Sport­sCastr.Live , a stream­ing plat­form that al­lows users to be color com­men­ta­tors and to se­lect which sports­caster they wish to have call, re­cap or make pre­dic­tions on a game.

That adds to pre­vi­ous in­vest­ments that in­clude ShotTracker, in which sen­sors send real-time data to coaches’ smart de­vices, and LiveLike, a vir­tual real­ity plat­form to watch sports.

“The key catch­word is per­son­al­iza­tion,” Stern said. “So I’m go­ing to want to watch the vis­it­ing feed in vir­tual real­ity, which the NBA has one game a week now, with real-time stats that are go­ing to be on my smart de­vice be­cause ShotTracker is go­ing to bring it to me.”

That sounds like it would be a good fit for his new life­style.

The busi­ness­man doesn’t miss be­ing bas­ket­ball’s big­gest de­ci­sion maker, a job he held from Feb. 1, 1984 — a few months be­fore Magic John­son and Larry Bird first met in the NBA Fi­nals and Michael Jor­dan was drafted — un­til Sil­ver, his for­mer as­sis­tant — took over. But when he stepped down as com­mis­sioner, he re­fused to let staffers call his de­par­ture a “re­tire­ment” as he pre­pared to move out of his for­mer home just off Fifth Av­enue.

Stern still takes some trips overseas on the NBA’s be­half.

“I’m as busy as ever, but not at night,” Stern said. “No­body calls, no­body goes into the stands, no­body goes af­ter their coach, no­body bumps an of­fi­cial. My life has been pu­ri­fied.”

“I haven’t cut down on va­ca­tion,” he added. “I think I’ve in­creased them and I love be­ing busy and I love that my work brings me in con­tact with the sport that I’m such a huge fan of and that I have de­voted so much of my life.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

For­mer NBA Com­mis­sioner David Stern.

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