MILWAUKEE – The NBA mourned the loss of a titan on Wednesday when former Commissioner David Stern died three weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 77.
Stern is credited with helping transform the game into a global phenomenon throughout the 1980s and 1990s, helping the NBA reach corners of the world it never could previously.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, said Stern’s legacy is multi-faceted.
“His ability to have ideas and then the force to implement them, I think he’ll always be known for it,” Taylor said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s one thing, I think it’s really the idea that he did lots of things, that’s really important.”
In the interview, Taylor lamented the loss of a friend, somebody who he had grown close with after taking control of the Wolves in 1994.
It was a bond that maintained even though Stern handed the league severe sanctions for its role in an under-the-table agreement it made with former player Joe Smith when Smith agreed to sign multiple one-year deals below value to help the Wolves circumvent the salary cap in exchange for a big payday down the line.
Stern and the league issued a hefty fine and docked the Wolves what would eventually amount to three first-round picks. Taylor accepted a suspension as part of the fallout, but Taylor was reflective Wednesday on the good times he and Stern had and how much he cherished their relationship. It began in earnest when Stern asked Taylor to create and run the NBA’s audit committee a few years after Taylor became an owner.
“He and I, our personalities are quite different and how we went about … the role that he took, the role that I took,” Taylor said. “We complemented each other, even though we took very different roles and action. I found out just by working with him, and then having our weekly calls that I really enjoyed his personal, private life that he shared with me once we got to be buddies. We just talked about lots of different things and I appreciated that.”
Taylor said his position on that committee and in handling the league’s finances “changed everything” in his relationship with Stern because of the constant communication they had together.
“That just developed into a very close personal relationship then,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he also would work with Stern to garner ownership support for new initiatives the league wanted to install. He could see the hard-driving personality Stern was notorious to have, but Taylor said he often witnessed the “other side” of Stern, one he will always remember.
“He was really caring about his staff and the people that he worked with,” Taylor said. “He really liked the basketball players, so he had, I don’t know if you’d call it a soft side, but a very nice, human relationship side too that he didn’t always display. But I knew it was there.”