BROOKLYN — Thursday’s NBA Draft marked the first time the Draft was held in Brooklyn, but it also signaled the final Draft for outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern. And Stern, perhaps even more than usual, seemed to enjoy himself all evening.
Every year at the Draft, fans seem to relish the opportunity to boo the Commissioner in person. The annual boos have no real context — at this point, it’s basically just a tradition unlike any other. And Stern, to his credit, seems to understand and embrace this.
When he was booed upon taking the stage, Stern said, “Good evening, and thanks for that fantastic Brooklyn welcome.” From then on, Stern punctuated the evening with pregnant pauses, giving fans a chance to expand their lungs, as the Commissioner acknowledged that “haters gonna hate. At times he even encouraged the interaction, waving a hand to tell fans to keep it up. As the first round drew to a close but the boos continued, Stern cracked perhaps his best line of the evening: “We had to explain to our international viewers that the boos represent respect.”
In a roundabout way, Stern was able to use that crack to reference one of his proudest accomplishments — the worldwide growth of the NBA under his watch. This year, there were a record 12 international players selected in the first round of this season’s Draft.
To end the evening, and put a capper on Stern’s final Draft, Stern was joined by incoming Commissioner Adam Silver and given a surprise visit from the first person he introduced at his first Draft 30 years ago, Hakeem Olajuwon. Fitting that we had to be in Brooklyn to remember it was all a Dream.