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My Personal Interaction With Former NBA Commissioner David Stern: September 22, 1942 – January 1, 2020

When every New Year occurs, I often wonder to myself ‘what famous well-known person will die, and shock the world, or if not ‘shock’ the world, but be enough to at least make us ‘stop in our tracks’ and be caught in some sort of surprise of the news of their passing’? Actually, I was thinking this many hours ago as I was going about my day on this first day of 2020.

Then to my literal surprise, I received a notification on my mobile device that “former NBA Commissioner David Stern passed away”.


Former NBA Commissioner David Stern

Well, I’ve said it once before in past articles here on my blog; “depending on the topic at hand, and the current events at the time, some of these stories might be personal”. And this one surely is.

It was in the summer of 1988 while traveling back home to Brooklyn from living almost a year in Honolulu, Hawaii with relatives, I was able to spend some time halfway in Los Angeles, California for the 1988 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Detroit Pistons. Some could say I was lucky. I had ‘inside connections’ with at the time our good, close family friend NY Post Sports Writer, Peter Vecsey. He was able to take me for the first two games of the NBA Finals, since I’ve been a huge LA Laker fan, despite being from originally Brooklyn Heights, New York City. I remember this extremely well. Pete gave me a free ‘Press Pass’ and I had free range to walk and ‘hang out’ within the entire LA Forum.


Peter Vecsey

I will never forget that game 1 wasn’t the most exciting game. In fact, sadly, my team the Lakers actually lost. Sure, I was depressed about this, but I still was quite happy being just within the excitement of the roar of the crowd and the ambiance of the fact that this was indeed the NBA Finals, where the world was watching. So like any good sport, I was looking forward to game 2.

Game 2 from what I remember was a really much more exciting game, and well, I also remember that it was the one game where I had no ‘seat’ but I had my ‘press pass’.  In fact, Pete told me that I had to “just walk around the forum throughout the game since it was sold out”! No problem. This didn’t bother me in the slightest. So I did just that.

By the time game 2 ended, and yes thankfully, my team the LA Lakers did win, Pete as the journalist he was, told me he had to now go into another room to do his ‘work’ to put all his notes together and then make it into an article for the NY Post for the next day. He took me to this small area, where it was covered with nothing more than as if a ‘free-flowing curtain’ that would move on its own from the slightest little breeze of air. This area was literally on courtside, but of course off to the side, as if under some sort of bleachers for lack of a better way of expressing it at the moment. And this ‘curtain’ was just separating the ‘walkway/entry’ from going on to the court and or leaving the court in direction of the locker rooms.

So, I remember very well this small little room.  I walk in, it was pretty quiet. There were a few people, all press people of course. And almost instantly as you walk in, to the left was a long table, that had xerox copies of notes of each headline of each quarter of the game, and other tidbits of notes on the game of the night. Sadly, there was no place to sit, so again…in this small room, I would be as if walking almost zombie-like, and keeping really quiet, so not to bother anyone, nor be in the way of anyone.

Then comes my most prominent memory of all. There was a time I was standing next to this table with all the ‘handouts and xerox copies’.  Again, I would quietly grab one sheet, and stand there and read it, just to stall for time. Then I would put it down, and then check out the other sheets and forms, again all had information pertaining  to the game we had just seen live.  Then while I was standing there reading one of the xerox copies, I had a sense as if someone was ‘staring’ at me.

Ewing Draft day portrait

David Stern with NY Knick Patrick Ewing

As I glance over to my right with the paper still in my hands, I see David Stern with both his hands flat on the table, leaning forward, his head turned to his left, looking slightly ‘up’ with these piercing eyes behind his famous glasses ‘ bull’s eye’ straight at me, and then says these words to me:  “Why are you here? Who are you with”? He then continues to wait for my answer. Instantly, I get a little nervous, because despite being a very young kid myself, I knew all too well, who he was. So, I was honest and I said:  “I’m with Pete Vecsey, and he told me to wait here for him”.  David Stern then said: “Oh ok, that’s fine”  and then walked away.

Thinking back to this interesting time for me, as a 20-year-old at the time, it’s funny how it ended. I mean, his answer after realizing that I had a legit reason for being there, but the minute or few minutes prior to, the curiosity and the inquisition that he had or must have had, really made him be determined to find out who this ‘kid’ was. Now looking back at this memory, its sort of funny.


David Stern with Michael Jordan

Some often say and believe that when a person is at some point in the dying process, their brain as if makes a quick video of their entire life, and all the interactions and experiences they went through during their lifespan. True or not, that is for each person to believe or not to believe.  I mean, how will anyone truly know, unless and until it is our personal turn to be in that last process.  But ‘if’ it is true, then it is sort of a weird thing to think that who knows, maybe even if just for a millisecond, as David Stern was dying, he may have replayed our extremely short interaction, and thus, I was once again, and for a final time, someone of ‘curiosity’ to him, and someone who he wanted to know who I was and why I was there, and in turn, I was one of the thousands of ‘faces/interactions’ he witnesse before he took his last breath, and ‘if’ true, knowing this is sort of a mysterious thing to think about.  After all, its really hard to answer no or yes, until… it’s our own personal time. And even if we were to find out for ourselves when that time comes, the sad part is…none of us will ever be able to tell the next guy, if it is or not.

That being said, Mr. Stern, even in our brief,  interesting time of interaction, I want to say to you; ‘Thank you, for being a kind gentle soul.  Thank you for not calling security on me, thank you for taking the time to find out if I had a legit reason for being there.  Thank you for being the good guy, that well, the entire NBA world says you really were, now that you have gone. We need more people like you, and I am honored, that during your life, no matter how long or short it was, that somehow ‘something brought us together’ and I will always treasure our time and you and the memory I have of you for the rest of my life.  Thank you, and rest in peace sir”.


David Stern and Magic Johnson


David Stern sitting on the right, when Magic announced he had Aids. Next to him, Kareem.


David Stern Former NBA Commissioner