David Stern Keynote Highlights 76 Capital Conference
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
PHILADELPHIA – Former NBA Commissioner David Stern was the keynote speaker at this week’s 76 Capital Sports Innovation Conference, held in the beautiful Citizens Bank Ballpark and attended by a good 1,000 or more sports industry execs, venture capital and private equity fund barracudas. As the afternoon was coming to a close, 76 Capital Managing Partner Wayne Kimmel sat down for a very informal and highly entertaining one-on-one chat with the 30-year, hard-charging former CEO of the NBA.
Stern is now the head honcho of Micromanagement Ventures along with CBS/NBA/ESPN broadcasting and digital media exec John Kosner who guides the firm and tees-up deals for the two longtime associates to consider for investments. After Stern spends a day each week, acting as Senior Advisor to Greycroft and its founder Alan Patricof, he and Kosner meet with and manage several investments in the sports technology and next generation sports viewing forums.
As Kosner worked the room and met with investors and clients all day, Stern arrived in time for his keynote and a slew of media interviews. On stage, Kimmel walked Stern through a timeline of sports history, NBA memories, current events and a stroll through many of the investments made by Micromanagement over the past six months to a year.
The finale brought down the house when Kimmel asked Stern to simply share a favorite memory or two from his 30 years with the NBA. Kimmel zeroed in on “the most exciting thing” from the Commissioner’s term of 1984-2004. To wit, Stern replied there were two specific things that stood out:
“The most exciting thing, in 1993, we were planning a trip to South Africa (as the NBA began with its Africa 100 basketball camps which evolved into Basketball without Borders). It was before Nelson Mandela was President but a couple years after he was released from Robben Island.
“There was violence still, and a lot of the players dropped out,” said Stern. “I said, if we’re sending a group and it might be dangerous, we’d better go, too. So we went. But, before we went, we noted Apartheid is still the official policy of South Africa, ‘are you sure we should go to South Africa?’
“The answer was that we were being invited by the National Olympic Committee of South Africa, which is a post-Apartheid organization and the ANC says that Nelson Mandela will stop by to say hello. So, we said, ‘That sounds good and we went.’
“The night before the events, we were there and I was getting dressed and the head of NBA security, Horace Balmer, called and said Nelson Mandela would like to visit with you. So, I called (then NBA Players Association Executive Director) Charlie Granthem and said, ‘put your pants on and come ‘on, Nelson Mandela is coming up to my room.’
“And, sure enough, there was knock on the door. At the time, I was told by security that he would never just go into a room, because they were worried for his life. And, I got to sit with Nelson Mandela for 45 minutes. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and really, it informed some of the things we did for the NBA in terms of Social Responsibility.
“Mr. Mandela said to us, and he taught me some things as he said, ‘sports keeps kids out of trouble and it brings people together.’ So, when you heard (current NBA Commissioner) Adam Silver say that sports can bring people together, in the face of this China ‘situation,’ he was not ‘hoofing it.’ He was repeating something that’s been the view of th NBA – embedded – because it’s what we believe in.
“I’m sure many of you have seen the movie, Invictus, where Mandela goes to see the South African rugby team, which was predominantly white, but he thought it was important to be there and walk out to the field to show people coming together. That was a very interesting moment.
“The only question that I had, that was the least bit relevant, was that I commented, “Mr. Mandela, you are so calm. How can you not be angrier? And, he said, “If you were here two years ago, I would’ve been in jail, If it were last year, I would be out of jail and beginning to make contributions. Now, they make no decisions without me, and if you come back next year, I’m going to be President.
“I said, ‘Okay, that works for me.’ And, we went to the Mandela Inauguration. That was a high point.”
While that experience was glorious and inspiring, Stern continued to add another distinct memory, with a more serious moment in his tenure as NBA Commissioner – the announcement by Earvin “Magic” Johnson that he would retire from the NBA because of the HIV virus (28 years ago).
“When Magic Johnson announced he was HIV-positive, it was earth-shattering because it was a complex situation at the intersection of not being able to test other players (Stern noted it was against the law). At the time, doctors didn’t;t know if the patients they were operating on were HIV+ or not. Karl Malone announced he wasn’t;t going to play with someone, other Olympic teams announced they weren’t going to play against the US, and we embraced Magic.
“We had an opportunity to lead. Growing out of that, when Magic became the MVP of the All-Star Game in Orlando and I got the opportunity to hug him, it was a lesson to the world (that you don’t get HIV by perspiration).
“It was the highlight of my Commissionership. It was terrific. Yeah, I can say that I was there when Michael (Jordan) did this, or Larry (Bird) did that, or the Slam-Dunk here or the Three-Point contest there, they were fun. But these were, for me, and for the league, life-changing because we understood that we can really make a difference.
“It was incredible.”
Yes, it was.
Here Now, the Notes: The Silver Sluggers of Major League Baseball are the elite batters at every position in the game. For Boston, both outfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts made the grade, while third baseman Rafael Devers was edged by Houston’s Alex Bregman, and rightfully so. LA’s Mike Trout became the sixth outfielder to receive seven Silver Slugger Awards as the Angels’ center fielder headed the list of honorees announced by MLB earlier this week. … The Silver Slugger is given to the top offensive player at each position in both the American League and the National League. Three outfielders are selected from each league, regardless of whether they play left field, center field or right field. … Importantly, the voting is done by major league managers and coaches. … Trout, 28, has captured his seven Silver Sluggers in a span of eight years. The only other outfielders to receive the award at least seven times were Barry Bonds (12), Manny Ramirez (eight), Ken Griffey Jr. (seven), Vladimir Guerrero (seven) and Tony Gwynn (seven). … Trout topped the AL in on-base percentage (.438) and slugging percentage (.645) while hitting .291 with 45 homers and 104 RBIs. He missed most of the season’s final month due to a foot ailment. … The Atlanta Braves had three players win Silver Sluggers: outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., first baseman Freddie Freeman and second baseman Ozzie Albies. … Three teams had a pair of honorees: the AL champion Houston Astros outfielder George Springer and third baseman Alex Bregman, the Sox’ Betts and Bogaerts) and the Minnesota Twins’ catcher Mitch Garver and designated hitter Nelson Cruz. … The Silver Slugger for the top-hitting NL pitcher went to a player who ended the year in the AL: Zack Greinke. The right-hander hit .271 (13-for-48) with three homers and eight RBIs for the Arizona Diamondbacks before getting traded to the Astros on July 31.
SILVER SLUGGER WINNERS (number of career wins in parentheses)
–Outfield: George Springer, Houston Astros (2); Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (3); Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (7)
–First base: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (1)
–Second base: DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees (1)
–Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (3)
–Third base: Alex Bregman, Houston Astros (1)
–Catcher: Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins (1)
–Designated hitter: Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins (3)
–Outfield: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves (1); Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers (1); Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (3)
–First base: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (1)
–Second base: Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves (1)
–Shortstop: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies (2)
–Third base: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (2)
–Catcher: J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies (2)
–Pitcher: Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks (2)
Diamond Dust: The New York Yankees, who fired veteran pitching coach Larry Rothschild last month, reportedly are adding a youthful replacement. … Matt Blake, 33, is set to land the job, multiple media outlets reported Thursday night. … Blake was the Indians’ assistant director of player development for three years — until Tuesday, when he was promoted to be Cleveland’s director of pitching development. … The Houston Astros shook up the front office on Thursday, removing Reid Ryan as team president of business operations and installing the owner’s son in the role. … Later in the day, Hall of Fame member Nolan Ryan — Reid’s father — said he was vacating his position as executive adviser to the team. … The younger Ryan, who assumed the team president job in May 2013, instead was given the title of “executive advisor, business relations.” … In a team statement, the Astros said the change would give Ryan “more opportunities to focus on his other business ventures while remaining an important part of the Astros organization.” … Taking his spot will be Jared Crane, the son of Astros owner Jim Crane, the team said. … The moves come after considerable turmoil in the Astros front office, including Assistant GM Brandon Taubman‘s outburst aimed at women reporters in the clubhouse after the ALCS and his subsequent dismissal after the team botched the cover-up and the crime.
Roundball Rebounds: Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry is “unlikely” to return this season, according to a story Friday from Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. … Curry underwent surgery on his broken left hand last Friday. At that time, the team announced it would update his status in three months, which could have put Curry back on the court around the All-Star Game. … “A team source says the fracture was worse than originally thought, and it’s unlikely that he plays again this season,” B/R reported. … The Philadelphia 76ers got one superstar back into the lineup but might have to play without a different one. … Joel Embiid returned Wednesday night after serving a two-game suspension for his scuffle with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns on Oct. 30, a boost for Philadelphia’s lineup. But now Ben Simmons will likely miss three games with a Grade 1 AC joint sprain in his right shoulder, according to multiple reports on Thursday. Simmons suffered the injury in Wednesday’s 106-104 loss at Utah. … Simmons was hurt when he hit the chest of Jazz forward Royce O’Neale on a post-up move in the first half and didn’t return. … “I hope he’s going to be all right,” Sixers teammate Tobias Harris said after the game. “I checked him after the game. He said he’s going to be OK.
Note Book: Defenseman Victor Hedman scored the go-ahead goal in his home country, Patrick Maroon tallied twice and the Tampa Bay Lightning posted a 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday in the NHL Global Series in Stockholm. … The Lightning swept the two-game series in Sweden after recording a 3-2 victory on Friday. … Former world No. 1 Jason Day was among the four Presidents Cup captain’s picks announced by International Team captain Ernie Els on Wednesday. … The 13th edition of the event will be held Dec. 12-15 at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. United States team captain Tiger Woods added himself to the USA team on Thursday. … Day finished ninth in the International Team rankings, and his selection by Els was considered a forgone conclusion. He will join fellow Australians Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith on the International Team. … Day, who will be playing in his fifth consecutive Presidents Cup, will also provide an experienced voice for the youngest International Team in Presidents Cup history that will average just over 29 years old.
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