Commissioner Stern pleased to see Raptors thriving
David Stern and Raptors president Masai Ujiri are in agreement - there’s no doubt Toronto has become a destination for NBA players.
And Stern, the league’s commissioner from 1984 to 2014, said any notion the city isn’t one died long ago.
“It has not worn off, it has been exploded off,” Stern said in phone interview with The Canadian Press from his New York office this week. “Toronto has the most wonderful array of sports assets and a cosmopolitan community and a great building.
“It’s a pleasure to see that it is a destination city that players want to go to.”
Ujiri interjected to answer a question directed at Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green - acquired in the blockbuster DeMar DeRozan trade with the San Antonio Spurs - at the Raptors’ season-opening press conference, frustrated that the narrative of Toronto being among the league’s least-desirable outposts still lingers. “That’s old and we should move past that,” Ujiri said in September. “Believe in this city, believe in yourselves.” He then repeated those sentiments to a couple dozen reporters.
“We have to move on,” he added. “To continue to hear about people not wanting to come here is actually irritating after a while. It is. Come on. Let’s be real. People like it here.”
Stern oversaw the NBA’s expansion to Canada during his tenure, with both the Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies joining the league ahead of the 1995-96 campaign. But while the Raptors have flourished after some early struggles, the Grizzlies only lasted six seasons before moving to Memphis in 2001.
“I consider (Toronto) a great success,” Stern said. “Just as I consider Vancouver to be one of our failures.”
Speaking ahead of Monday’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony that will see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who worked under Stern with the NBA for more than a decade, the 76-year-old still wonders what might have been with the Grizzlies.
“It doesn’t gnaw (at me),” Stern said. “But when I think of it I regret that it was never really (given) the attention that it deserved, because it’s a beautiful and extraordinary city.”