The messy situation involving the Chris Paul trade is just getting started after NBA commissioner David Stern made the bewildering decision to block the trade that would have landed the All-Star point guard with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, teams are appealing the decision, but it would not be a shock if Stern stuck to his guns and refused to let Paul move. Professional sports are complex, but it is quite possible that Stern has overstayed his welcome and now needs to move on. Here are some reasons why.
He has lost control
What makes this latest decision so strange is that no one seems to understand the reasoning. Stern appears to have killed the deal just because he didn't like it. The league has suggested that Stern made this decision because it wasn't good for the NBA. However, that is a subjective decision that goes against the entire history of transactions in the sport. If the commissioner can randomly approve or deny deals, what is point of negotiating? If you don't like the system, you fix the system. However, Stern is flirting with disaster if he completely steps outside of policy and protocol.
The labor dispute was a disaster
Again, the finances of a professional sports league are incredibly complex, and it is naive of fans to assume that these sorts of negotiations are simple. However, this just went on far too long, and that falls on Stern. Strong leadership gets things done in a reasonable period of time, and Stern did not do that. Ironically, the owners and the commissioner were fighting against a system that they themselves created. The owners can lament bloated, guaranteed contracts all they want. However, they were the ones that signed them in the first place.
Michael Jordan is gone
Ever since "His Airness" Michael Jordan retired (again) from the league, the NBA has been looking for his successor. In the 1980s and 1990s, the NBA was built around specific personalities that were transcendent and made a broad audience tune in even if they were not fans of that team. There have certainly been stars that have come after Jordan and have attained worldwide popularity. However, the Jordan Effect was arguably a one-time deal, and the NBA has never been able to duplicate that era.
The inmates are running the asylum
You could argue that the owners won in the latest negotiations, but the players are still getting paid a lot of money, and may of the compensation structures are still in place. In addition, the players still have an immense amount of power when it comes to personal contract decisions and social media. The Chris Paul situation is possibly an attempt by the commissioner to stop player demands for trades, but he doesn't have the policy or infrastructure to back up the philosophy. The players may not ultimately be in charge, but they know how much the owners need them.
The NBA is declining in relevance
The NBA is still a popular sport in America, and once the season actually gets started, many fans will come back after vowing to stay away. However, in the United States, football is king as the NFL dominates in the revenue department. Even Major League Baseball with all of their archaic policies and procedures is looking like a more stable league right now. If the NBA is not careful, they could keep falling in terms in relevance. Maybe the NBA needs to change their marketing model, or alter the delivery of their product.
Or, maybe they need a new commissioner.
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