'Virtuoso Generation': IN THE BEGINNING: When David Stern Became Commissioner of the National Basketball Association in 1984, the League Bore Little Resemblance to the Flush and Flashy NBA of Today. but That Same Year, Michael Jordan Arrived. the League Had Its Bankable Star., RUNNING OF THE BULLS: Michael Jordan Retired in 1993 after the Death of Father and Returned to the NBA in 1995

Newsweek, October 25, 1999 | Go to article overview
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'Virtuoso Generation': IN THE BEGINNING: When David Stern Became Commissioner of the National Basketball Association in 1984, the League Bore Little Resemblance to the Flush and Flashy NBA of Today. but That Same Year, Michael Jordan Arrived. the League Had Its Bankable Star., RUNNING OF THE BULLS: Michael Jordan Retired in 1993 after the Death of Father and Returned to the NBA in 1995


It's hard sometimes to recall what a different NBA it was back then. Our television revenues were $27 million a year instead of $425 million. Merchandise sales were closer to $40 million than $3 billion. There was a lingering sense that America would not support a league that was substantially African-American. Still, we were making inroads with sponsors. So at the end of the '84-'85 season we decided to hold a showcase event, our first awards banquet, in San Francisco. And, of course, the person we wanted there most was our rookie of the year, Michael Jordan. We didn't yet fully appreciate what this young man was going to come to mean to the league, but we already felt he was our brightest rising star. Shortly before the dinner, we learned that Michael was in North Carolina and wasn't going to be able to attend. We were panicked. I remember this terrible, sinking feeling. Then someone came up with the idea of chartering a plane. That may seem obvious now, but back then we didn't even know how to charter a plane. It would cost $30,000--a fortune! It would wipe out our entire sponsorship profits for the year. But we had to do it or lose enormous credibility with the sponsors whom we had assured that the NBA was a league on the ascendancy. Michael got there and he was extraordinary. He said all the right things.

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'Virtuoso Generation': IN THE BEGINNING: When David Stern Became Commissioner of the National Basketball Association in 1984, the League Bore Little Resemblance to the Flush and Flashy NBA of Today. but That Same Year, Michael Jordan Arrived. the League Had Its Bankable Star., RUNNING OF THE BULLS: Michael Jordan Retired in 1993 after the Death of Father and Returned to the NBA in 1995
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