OK, as promised earlier, David Stern's press conference.
The short version is this: Everything's wonderful, the league is the greatest organization in the history of mankind, and LeBron James is fined $25,000 for blowing off the media after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Beyond that, since I thought there might be some people who find it interesting to see exactly how the Stern spin cycle works -- and because it's late and I'm tired, and this shortcut is available -- I'm actually going to post the entire transcript of the Stern press conference, as provided by the ASAP service, in two parts. Part 1 follows:
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Welcome to the 2009 NBA Finals. We've had a great year. We've had an extraordinary playoffs, including I would just say an electrifying, electrifying Conference Finals, and this is just an exclamation point to a season for the ages, in my view.
Everything came together for us. The development of our young players as members of extraordinary teams, their Olympic experience, the mix that the international players have contributed to this league and the richness that we have received from them, it was apparent throughout the season and apparent throughout the playoffs, and indeed it's apparent in these very Finals.
Interestingly enough, even our NBA Development League has contributed to these playoffs; I guess there are eight roster players with D League experience in these Finals, and that was put into place to develop conditioning, the confidence, the coaching, the community of our players. So we're feeling pretty good about a number of decisions that have been made and have gotten us here, including our support for international basketball, our participation in the World Championships and the Olympics, and our development around the world, which has led to the growth of the game and the development of players that have made our league so much better. And indeed, there are going to be 215 countries receiving our games in 42 languages, and I think that the record audiences that we've had demonstrate that NBA fans, and some new NBA fans, agree with us.
Before I take your questions, I just want to say that as a matter of some interest, yesterday I spoke with LeBron James, who as you know is recovering from surgery, a five hour surgery, and he expressed to me that when he left the building and did not meet the media or did not congratulate the Magic, he was wrong. He'll be talking to you I assume directly as he gets better and stronger, but he asked that I express to the media, the Magic and the fans his apology, and particularly the young fans, because he knows he has a responsibility to all of our fans, and that sportsmanship is appropriate whether you win or whether you lose. He understands why it was necessary for me to fine him $25,000 for missing the media availability.
But I know you'll all join me in wishing him a speedy recovery. I'd be happy to answer any questions that you have, after I say one more time, congratulations to the Magic and the Lakers for the run to this Finals, and aren't we lucky to have these two very successful teams here.
Q. The NBA has become involved in bankruptcy proceedings of the Phoenix Coyotes to block their potential move. I just wonder why.
STERN: We haven't quite become involved. We have submitted a document of support with respect to league procedures. We think that there's a principle that's at risk there, which is when you buy a franchise, what do you get. And when you take it out of the sports context, if you buy a fast food franchise in a city, you own that, you don't own the right to have that fast food franchise in any other city. That's why sports leagues have historically voted on where their franchise should be located, and there's an effort underway there to bypass that, and we think that's a principle that we would like to be heard on. I know Major League Baseball and the NFL will support us, as well.
Q. Just wondering, the WNBA has got sponsorship on their jersey. Are we going to see that in the NBA anytime soon?
STERN: You mean the WNBA whose season kicks off on Saturday at 2:30 on ABC, that WNBA? I don't think we're going to see it any time soon, but I am delighted that the WNBA was able to do that because the combination of that, one, that we think will be announced relatively soon for another team, and the fact that they'll have probably 30 games on ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC this year that will be paid for is really a threshold that's very important for them to have overcome, and it's a very good financial league.
We'll study it. I just saw that an insurance company replaced AIG on Manchester United's uniform for a price. If you have an offer you'd like to make for the owners, I'm prepared to receive it, but right now it's not for sale in the NBA.
Q. I actually have two questions, but since now you've brought up LeBron, the League initially said he would not be fined. What made you go back retroactively and change your mind there?
STERN: I said initially that I was not planning to fine him, but I thought about it more and I went back and did a little work. It's always good to do a little work before you talk. It was a throw away line at the press conference in the WNBA press announcement of the aforementioned jersey sale, and the more I thought about it I thought there were two things we had to deal with, which was the media and the failure to congratulate. LeBron and I discussed it, and I'll leave the rest for him to talk about, but I think it was important. Certainly as it related to the media, we have a rule, you guys know that we've had some interesting issues over the years with some of our coaches and the like, and it was inappropriate for me to give someone a pass here.
Q. Bob Johnson said he's lost millions of dollars and he's looking to sell the Bobcats. I'm wondering what you think the situation is in Charlotte. Is Michael Jordan a viable owner? Is it a viable market for them to stay there? Any of those things?
STERN: I don't know what Michael's plans are, but I do know that Charlotte is an extraordinary market. It led our league in attendance for many, many years. It's got a terrific new building, and I'm sure that whoever the next owner is will fully realize the potential of the market based upon a very good start that Bob has made in bringing basketball back to Charlotte.
Q. As I'm sure you're aware, there was a congressman who made a statement yesterday regarding your over 19 rule, and there are obviously a few guys in the series being straight from high school guys. Curious what you thought of his remarks, especially the one where he referred to slavery?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I'm going to count to ten on that remark, but I will say that I was more taken by his remark that he's thought about this for a while but he thought he would make this statement, issue a press release and then send a letter at this time so he would get more exposure during The Finals, and I agree with him completely that that's what he did.
But as to slavery, that would be like you saying that the talented people of the NBA, college graduates some, and talented graduates of many universities are not eligible to be congressmen because they have an age limitation of 25. So I don't know what he's talking about.
Q. As a follow up to the age limit itself, collectively bargaining obviously coming up fairly soon, you guys have talked about moving it to 20 and the union would love to repeal the limit in the first place. Do you see this being on the table?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Only to the extent that everything is always on the table, but it's not a deal breaker for us. We're very happy. What the congressman didn't understand, and we'll be happy to share our view with him, this is not about the NCAA, this is not an enforcement of some social program, this is a business decision by the NBA, which is we like to see our players in competition after high school. I don't know why our founders decided that age 25 was good for Congress, but I guess they thought that was about maturity, and for us it's different, it's a kind of basketball maturity, and there is the ability of players to develop one more year personally, but this is not about whether they should go to college or not.
I would add quickly that players have three routes: They can go to college Division 1A, Division II, whatever, junior college they can go to the NBA Development League, whose entry age is 18, or they can go to Europe. So this is not a mandatory direction by anyone that players should go to college.
Q. This is your 26th NBA Finals as commissioner and your 12th involving Jerry Buss, who's owned the team for the past 30 years. Can you talk about Jerry's impact on the league, especially with respect to making entertainment an awesome factor for all NBA fans and everybody who's interested in the league?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Jerry, quite simply, was a pioneer in understanding what the value of entertainment was in a community. That went to how people could consume it, what they would feel about it, and indeed, what they would be willing to pay for it, and what the players' value was. I remember when he gave Magic a $25 million contract. We had owners who wanted to have him committed, and indeed he recognized what the value was going to be, and it seemed like a low price very shortly thereafter. So Jerry understood everything, and I wouldn't be fair if I didn't add that he is a League first person on every issue as a member of the Board of Governors that we have talked about, negotiated about. In every context he's always put the League first, and often to another position would have been better for the Lakers financially.
Q. If economic conditions in the US don't improve significantly in the next 6 to 12 months, what are the ramifications for the teams that are struggling the most from a financial standpoint? And have you discussed remedies going forward?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, I think that we always have teams that do better than others. We expect next season to really have another record year, we hope, with respect to attendance. The reality is that we don't expect, we hope. The reality is there will be discounts and price cuts because we're trying to respond to what our fans are telling us, so our revenues will likely be down some percentage I can say, maybe as much as 10 percent. But that's a small amount in the landscape here.
We're continually discussing issues of revenue sharing, but we do have an increased revenue sharing program in, and we had a very good and robust discussion with the owners and executives session in our Board of Governors meeting, and I'm getting ready to schedule another executive session in the summer so we can come together and talk about all issues that are front and center.
But we've always had owners who do less well, and they have issues about how they're going to fund their teams. But we're doing pretty well.
OK, that's Part 1. Part 2 coming momentarily.