In one of the most talked about sports radio interviews in quite some time, a seemingly docile David Stern interview with Jim Rome turned into an all-out smackdown.  Phe-no-me-nal.  The first 7+ minutes of the interview were relatively normal.  And then, the current NBA commissioner morphed into the radio equivalent of Jim Everett.  The moment that sent the interview into a tailspin was Jim Rome asking David Stern about the perceived fixing of the NBA Draft Lottery with the league-owned Hornets winning the lottery.  The only thing missing was Stern saying “if you call me Chris one more time, we better take a station break“…

Rome: You know New Orleans won the draft lottery, which of course produced the usual round of speculation that maybe the lottery was fixed.  I know that you appreciate a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy.  Was the fix in for the lottery?

Stern: I have two answers for that.  I’ll give you the easy one – no.  And a statement, shame on you for asking.

Rome: I understand why you would say that to me and I wanted to preface it by saying it respectfully.  I think it’s my job to ask because I think people wonder.

Stern: No, it’s ridiculous, but that’s ok.

Rome: I know that you think it’s ridiculous, but I don’t think the question is ridiculous, because I know people think that… (Stern interrupts and tries to say the “beating your wife” line)… I’m not saying that I do, but I think it’s my job to ask you that.

Stern: Have you stopped beating your wife yet? 

Rome: Yea, I don’t know if that’s fair.

Other Stern quotes included:

“It’s good copy, and you do things sometimes for cheap thrills.”

“It’s a cheap trick.”

“You spend your time taking on the world and now Jim Rome is pouting?  I love it.  It’s great.”

“Listen I gotta go call somebody important, like Stephen A. Smith, he’s up next.”

While the moribund Stern didn’t get heated per se, that was about as hostile of an interview you can get from a commissioner.  But in looking at this interview, both men were right… to a point… here’s why.

Rome is completely within his rights to ask the question about the lottery being fixed.  Remember, in the aftermath of the lottery, a majority of fans thought it was indeed fixed.  This perception clearly exists and it takes some major brass for Rome to directly ask the question that others in the basketball media need to be asking.  if the credibility of the league isn’t addressed openly and thoroughly, this speculation and allegations of fixing are going to continue, whether David Stern likes it or not.

Secondly, Stern is completely within his rights to call the question ridiculous.  No commissioner of any league or leader of any company wants to be challenged with the integrity of their product.  If Stern wants to stamp out these conspiracy theories, he needs to be as strong as possible in debunking them.  However, that’s when Stern begins to quickly lose the plot.

While “have you stopped beating your wife” might be used as an example of a loaded question, it’s poor form for the commissioner of a major sport.  David Stern cannot be this dense to have those words come out of his mouth in the order in which they did no matter the context.  

Even if you give Stern a pass for that soundbyte though, the way he continues to carry on with Rome is just childish.  Instead of having a legitimate discourse about the questioned integrity of his league, David Stern would rather taunt “you want to hang up on me” like he’s a caller to Mike Francesa.  In no way did David Stern carry himself like a commissioner should.  Could you imagine Roger Goodell acting this petulantly to Scott Van Pelt?  (Of course not, Goodell would have him suspended indefinitely before it got to that point.)  

Stern’s response should be simple.  He should show Jim Rome and all those fans who think the league is fixed that it’s not.  It’s quite simple, really.  Do the lottery live and in public.  Be proactive about improving the officiating quality and hold referees to a higher standard.  Why isn’t it that easy for a commissioner that proclaims he has nothing to hide?  Instead though, David Stern builds the wall between himself and his league’s fans higher by dismissing Rome’s questioning as “cheap thrills.”  He wants to blindly hope that we forget the name Tim Donaghy.  It’s nothing but ignorance towards the NBA’s real perception problem.

And finally, the moment that cements Stern’s divorce from reality – propping up Stephen A. Smith as “somebody important” and in theory, the antithesis of a journalist who does things for cheap thrills.

Quite frankly, that’s worthy of another conspiracy theory altogether.

(via JackMooreBuzz on Youtube)

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.