It was the wildest scene in the leagues history: players jumping into the stands beating up fans and then causing chaos in the palace of Auburn - all of which were broadcast live across the country. Stern quickly picked up the phone and contacted Ross granique, vice president.
I said, Jesus, rose. Its probably more uncivilized, stern recalled. But I told him, turn on the TV, you wont believe what youre going to see.
This incident was named Auburn mountain incident and recorded permanently in history. It happened on November 20, 2004, exactly 15 years ago. Less than 48 hours after the fight, the League imposed its worst ever punishment on the players involved: Ron Artest, a boxing fan who rushed into the stands, was banned from 73 matches.
There are lots of fighting clips on the Internet and TV programs, and countless experts criticize the NBA, debate and even go to court. And the beginning of all this confusion is just because one fan thought it would be fun to throw a sugar free coke at Artest.
And the discussion that this incident inspired is deeply rooted in race issues and hip-hop culture, which also makes the League reexamine the impression it wants to leave in the eyes of fans and public opinion.
I dont like the criticism, Stern said. Obviously, it gives everyone a chance to talk about punks and thugs, and we all know that these terms are always associated with black players in the NBA.
In his 30-year career as president, stern has encountered many difficulties, including the stranglehold of Sprewell, the downfall of the Tennessee gambling scandal and two industrial disputes. He said that he really felt the panic of life and death. When Magic Johnson announced his retirement due to HIV, he felt that he was almost sentenced to death in the NBA.
Maybe its also the experience of these big waves. The Auburn mountain incident is not on Sterns disaster list.
Maybe its not our most glorious moment, but I dont think the league has bottomed out because of it. He said.
This article is not intended to bring up the old story. After all, there are only six players left in the league in 2004-05. The story here is how the League reshaped its brand after its reputation was wiped out and realized the soaring market value of the team. You know, 15 years ago, the most valuable Lakers had a market value of 447 million, and now every team in the NBA has a market value of more than 1 billion.
After Xiao Hua became president, NBA also got the fattest broadcast contract in history. The price of players is also rising. Their popularity has never been so high. Among the most famous athletes in the world, three have come from NBA (LeBron, Durant and Curie).
Its a long climb. Stern said, you ask me whats the proudest thing thats happened in my tenure. Thats when I left, our players were at the top of the celebrity pyramid, they were at the bottom
In my words, this is the result of positive reinforcement year after year. Players now understand that they have a certain obligation to the league and to the reputation of all players in the league. After a generation of hard work before them, they can now master such a large amount of energy and get rich rewards. This is also the basis for the market value of each team and the increase of player contract amount. I believe this is a very good result.
Most of the growth of the alliance is natural and comes from the value growth in the era of live and on-demand broadcasting. The familiarity and stability of the audience also played a role, but some were still strategic. In fact, all the positive changes seen by the alliance happened after the Auburn mountain incident.
The rule reform before 2004-05 season led to more open competition and smoother rhythm, but the impact will be more obvious after many years. In the past decade, too much physical contact and single combat hindered the development of the game, so that the NBAs products became more and more ugly.
Stern found a boss he trusted very much, former sun boss Jerry colongillo, and set up a committee to implement the new rules, inject energy into the game, and change the status quo of low viewing.
I told Jerry, lets make a change together. The common picture in the game was Steve Francis holding the ball for half an hour alone in the corner, and everyone else was in the parking lot waiting to be defended, Stern said We found a way to open up space and make the game more interesting.
NBA no longer allows joint defense, forcing the team to take the ball through the half court in 8 seconds instead of 10 seconds, as well as according to Colangelos words, hand defense is focused on defense, directly cleaning up the obstacles, so that the small man has room to play. What were talking about is the era of security. In this new era, the game is better and the pace is faster, which is what the league is eager to see.
Suns manager at that time was Dandong Ni, the main point guard Steve Nash. They became the first team to eat crabs, established the attack system of seven seconds or less, and become the guide of todays data analysis and the concept of three-point supremacy. These concepts package the game as a better looking and easier to promote product, and the increasing scoring opportunities also allow a team to accommodate more superstars.
The game will always be developing and changing, and I think basketball is very good now, whether its at the level of rules or regulation, said colongillo
u00b7American mens basketball and popular superstars
Stern doesnt believe the League was spiraling down at the time of Auburn mountain, but its not the only negative news in the NBA in 2004. In the early off-season, at the Athens Olympic Games, the American mens basketball team won the bronze medal, which became a joke.
NBA can cooperate with American mens basketball team to create a dream team in 1992. Sterns mediation plays an important role. In the face of the crisis, he found colongillo again.
I think no matter what happens to the national team at the Olympics, the NBA will be blamed. He said, I will say that if we want to carry the pot, it is better to take active action to save ourselves. Players and coaches quarreled endlessly. I was very dissatisfied. I asked Jerry if he could increase the importance of the Olympic Games, so as to select a team that would really like to play for his country, rather than let a group of players come here and treat it as a drudgery.
In April 2004, colongillo sold the Suns to Robert sawall for $401 million, the highest acquisition price for the NBA team at that time. He left the NBA to have surgery for prostate cancer, and in January 2005, stern found him dealing with the national team.
I agreed directly, but only if he met my two requirements. Konon Gillo recalled, he asked me what I was, and I said, first of all, I want to decide what coach and player I should be in charge of. I has the final say. He agreed. The second condition is that I dont want to hear anything about the budget. And he was angry, and it hurt him. I said, David, are you finished complaining? My second request is not negotiable. He gave in.
Therefore, Colangelo determined to change the team culture of the American mens basketball team, introduced the three-year service system, and found the favorite coach K. In 2008, they won the gold medal in Beijing Olympic Games, and the mens basketball team members will become the leading team of the League for a long time in the future. They not only recovered the field for the national team, but also made it an honor to play for the country again, inspiring the younger generation.
Its perfect to be on the podium, because few people have such vision, such planning and perfect execution, and finally get the best results. All the feedback was positive, the League really needed to turn around at that time, and the gold medal was urgently needed by all of us, and it was also very important.
In addition, the revitalization of the United States team also has an unexpected indirect impact, that is, LeBron, Wade and Bosh, who played in the national team, successfully joined the heat in 2010. At that time, this move caused great controversy, and LeBron became a polarizing figure. But after two consecutive titles, he was worthy of much slander and praise.
Since Jordan left the bulls in 1998, the NBA has been looking for a replacement. LeBron just came out when Jordan retired completely, and he won the eastern Championship for eight years in a row when he was at his peak, which has consolidated his historical position, made him become a landmark NBA spokesman, and can challenge Jordans greatest position.
Stern said: now we have so many stars in the league. LeBron is the top one, every season is an MVP candidate, but think of Curie, Durant and Hardon, Weiss these excellent players, in such a contrast, more will find LeBron absolutely worthy of his greatness
Stern also understood that in order to change the negative impression of NBA players, appearance is also an important factor. He didnt like players wearing broad street clothes appearing in front of the media cameras. In 2005-06 season, he issued a dress order, requiring players sitting on the bench to wear formal clothes, and in any case, to wear casual coats and collared shirts.
Because of the ban, Stern was strongly opposed by the players Union, and fans and the media thought he was too autocratic. But after the initial wave of opposition, a miracle happened: the players actually enjoyed it. Now, they have directly made the game into a red carpet ceremony, scrambling to show their fashion taste.
Stern said with a smile: my biggest determination is to introduce such stupid things as casual wear. But our players took the challenge and really put on flowers and started fashion shows. Ive always said that if I had their bodies, I would play like this. They are not in good shape. They are the best in the world. They dont necessarily like dress codes, but they obviously raise my standards too much. I cant be happier to see them on the best dressed lists of GQ, Mr. fashion and vanity fair
I cant say if this situation proves my wisdom, but the players know that we are both damaged and proud.
u00b7Social media and social events
Ten years after the Auburn incident, Michel Roberts became the voice of the players Union. She used to be a basketball fan and had a headache about the negative image of the players at that time.
I remember people used to think that basketball players were no different from thugs. They give the impression that they are all kinds of drugs, but I never believe that, she said
She said that when she joined the union, the lockout was over for three years, and the biggest complaint about NBA players was that they made too much money. Its their most negative public impression that they are greedy.
But the negative impression is also turning. In the past decade, players have proved that they are not thugs. They talk directly with fans on social networks. There is no middleman that can distort their meaning. Fans feel sincere and personalized. Such transparency also makes players more friendly and even makes people forget how much money they can make for a while.
Its impossible without social media, Roberts said. Im old enough to remember what I used to look like. Its all about ideas. Now the fans think they know the players better than before
And superstars like LeBron are also determined to engage in social activities and issue political opinions based on personal concerns.
u00b7Complex idol fan relationship
When told that Auburn Hills 15th anniversary was coming, stern joked, shall I say happy anniversary?
One of the things that bothered stern most about the scandal was that it undermined the intimate experience unique to basketball.
I always say that we have to support a barrier between players and fans and never let the fighting spread to the stands. We have to deal with the violations seriously, but we also have to make the fans feel safe, no matter what may happen on the pitch, he said
At that time, we thought, and now I think, that our seating arrangements are the best in sports, and we cant ruin it because of fights. We cant tolerate fans attacking players and throwing things at them, but we cant tolerate players fighting with them and threatening them
At this level, the aftereffects of the Oppenheim incident are still ongoing, and there have been a number of sensitive cases in the past year. Wes quarreled with the Jazz fans on the sidelines, but fortunately he didnt upgrade to action, and that fan was immediately banned for life. In the G3 finals, Mark Stevens, a minority shareholder of warriors, challenged Lori on the sidelines and pushed him. The NBA banned him for one year and fined him 500000 dollars (his personal value is 2.7 billion).
Fortunately Kyle (lorry), who has experience and can handle this kind of thing calmly, Roberts said. If its lengtouqing, it may not be so calm. I do worry that now the players are facing a more complex environment, sports can not be unaffected by the trend of the times. If you dont keep a high level of vigilance, you will find yourself in trouble. You must have a zero tolerance policy. If someone misbehaves, you will be banned for life.
I dont care if you are a season ticket holder or a boss shareholder, if you behave badly, you cant appear at the scene of the game, you are a danger. People really have a crazy side. Im worried about that.
Fifteen years ago, the Auburn mountain incident showed the world that NBA players were out of control. At the same time, it also showed that fans can actually destroy a good game environment. Sterns priority is to warn all players that they can never have a holiday, no matter how impulsive you are.
The players know the stakes, there are only a few fans with violent tendencies, and they should also believe that the League will punish such fans severely. Stern said.
Its a respect for the game itself, and that respect will also constrain fans to follow the rules. This respect also allows players to set up their own charitable foundations and visit schools with the team to do good, he said. In order to promote the league and improve their social status, the team and players need a lot of cooperation