NBA commissioner Adam Silver joined The Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday to celebrate the NBA In-Season Tournament as the games move to ESPN for the semifinals and final, and ended up invoking widely-hated former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger while voicing his support for a “strong” American military.
If that sounds like a hallucinated Mad Lib, you’re not alone. It would all be much easier to explain if this were some quick soundbite that made Silver look bad, but he took the conversation there all by himself.
McAfee asked Silver about the vast array of international athletes in the NBA and Silver basically said “hold my beer” before a tangent on how the NBA is expanding to Asia, Africa and beyond in an attempt to exert “soft power” in diplomacy.
“I get pulled in, though not always in a positive way,” Silver began. “I will say I was reading a lot of those long obituaries around Henry Kissinger’s death at 100. And where he was sort of an exemplar of one of the great global diplomats, and I want to say I understand, and this is going to be far afield of your question, I of course believe we have to have a strong military. I’m a big believer.
“At the same time, call it soft power or call it diplomacy, through sport, through culture, through art, it brings connectivity together with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Basketball is one of those sports.”
Adam Silver is asked by Pat McAfee about the NBA's place in international relations and compares himself to Henry Kissinger, "one of the great global diplomats" before telling ESPN's audience he is a "big believer" in a strong military… pic.twitter.com/LHUCrgt4L4
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) December 6, 2023
Silver appeared to catch the preposterousness of his answer midway through, but continued along anyway.
“I’m a sports executive, I’m not a diplomat,” Silver continued. “But I think the things that we do around the world, participating in these national games, Olympic games, by taking our games globally … by people seeing the values of our game around the world, the principles, I call it like the rule of law … sports teaches those values.”
Silver then finished up by really flexing his diplomatic muscles.
“This is an issue in the United States but really for the whole world,” Silver said. “Even though we’re seeing more prosperity in some of these places, we continue to see issues around childhood obesity, diabetes, and in many cases it’s because kids aren’t active. … Sports is very unique from that standpoint.”
At around the 2:22 mark in the clip above, even poor McAfee tries to give Silver the signal to wrap up his strange, meandering answer.
While he was involved in certain achievements some Americans may take pride in, Kissinger is among the more reviled bureaucrats of modern times for his role in genocidal wars throughout southeast Asia as well as the Watergate political scandal. As the leader of a league whose fans are largely young and extremely online, Silver’s comments ring as extremely out of touch.
And he walked right into the mess unprompted.