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David Stern: The long goodbye to the man who twice helped bring the NBA to OKC

DAVID STERN — When he retires as NBA commissioner on the 30th anniversary of taking the job, Oklahoma City will be losing a friend in high places.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: November 3, 2012

Stern attended the Hornets' finale in OKC and said: “I'm not going to steal a line from General MacArthur and use the word ‘shall.' Instead, we'll use the words ‘expect to.' We expect to return to Oklahoma City.”

An NBA franchise indeed did return. Bennett's group purchased the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006 and relocated them to Oklahoma City two years later after Seattle ignored Stern's edict to replace KeyArena, the league's oldest and smallest facility at the time.

Particularly interesting is how Cornett and Shinn speak of their personal dealings with Stern.

“He's relationship-driven,” Cornett said. “I think what he saw was a relationship with me and with Clay, that gave him more confidence than any other option he had. There wasn't time to re-invent things (after Katrina). It was what it was. He and Clay are close. I don't think people in Oklahoma City realize that commissioner Stern probably respects Clay as a businessman and a friend more than any owner in the league. I wouldn't want to rate them for him, but I've been around enough to know that Clay is in a small group at the top.”

Stern and Shinn battled famously through the years, but all that changed with Katrina.

“I like him very much,” Shinn said. “I respect him even more than I like him, if that makes sense. David is a tough guy. If you're an owner in the NBA and he thinks you need to improve or sell more tickets or whatever, he'll be on your case. And sometimes he's not nice about it, but that's good. I'm not saying that was wrong. By being ugly, that was good. He could jerk you in or out real quick, but also he has a soft side. He's a good man.

“When the storm came and flooded the arena in New Orleans, there's no way I could ever explain to anyone this experience. It was horrifying to me and it had never in the history of sports happened to anybody else. So we were in new grounds, new territory and the most devastating time for me was right after the storm. During that time, David called me every day for several weeks. I can't tell you what it meant to me to have him to do that.

“I have nothing but admiration for the man. He was always there for me and we had our bouts, OK? I'm kind of an aggressive guy and David is very aggressive so when we met, we clashed, and I understand that. As I got older and I experienced some things, I just realized what an incredible guy he is.”