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David Stern giving Oklahoma City a chance has helped NBA flourish

In some places, Stern's retirement will be cause for celebration. These are the locales where he's known as ‘Dictator David' and other less printable nicknames. Not in Oklahoma City.
by Jenni Carlson Published: January 30, 2014

Some time Friday afternoon, David Stern will walk out of the commissioner's office at NBA world headquarters for the last time.

It is his final day on job after 30 years.

In some places, Stern's retirement will be cause for celebration. These are the locales where he's known as “Dictator David” and other less printable nicknames.

Not in Oklahoma City.

Around these parts, Stern is beloved. He stood in the city's corner when it offered refuge to the Hornets after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That gave Oklahoma City a chance to prove itself worthy of its own NBA franchise, a reward that was granted in 2008.

The rest is glorious history.

Stern has been good to Oklahoma City, and really, that much we already knew.

(By the way, who bought the gigantic retirement card for everyone to sign?)

But the truth is, OKC has been pretty darn good for Uncle David, too. We did him a solid.

Rewind for a minute, and consider the state of the NBA a decade or so ago.

On a Friday night in November 2004, then-Pacers bad boys Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson took those bad boy tags to a whole other level. They charged into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills and fought with Pistons fans. Officials stopped the game. Fans pelted players with who knows what.

It was one of the ugliest moments in the history of sports, much less the history of the NBA.

The Malice at the Palace left a huge stain in the league's reputation, but it was hardly the only blemish.

All around the league, players who were injured or inactive were appearing on benches in increasingly casual apparel. T-shirts. Jeans. Sweats. Chains. The looks appealed to some, connecting with the increasingly popular hip-hop culture, but they alienated others, perpetuating the bad-boy vibe created by the Palace brawl.

Then, there was increasing controversy about the number of players coming straight from high school. Some became stars — LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Amar'e Stoudemire among them — and some became Kwame Brown.

In 2005, both issues were addressed.

A new collective bargaining agreement reached that summer set minimums for players to enter the draft. They had to be at least 19 and had to be at least one year removed from high school.

Then in the fall, Stern established a dress code, the first by a major pro sports league. Business casual became the norm.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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