A week before Kanye West's new album Yeezus is thrust upon the world, the New York Times published an incredible interview with the rapper, who many consider one of the (if not the) biggest cultural icon of the 21st century to date. Toward the end of the interview, Kanye talks about his place in society and history. And he gives NBA commissioner David Stern the greatest retirement gift anyone could ever ask for.
I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it's like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.
I've been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past ten years. You have like, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Nicolas Ghesquière, Anna Wintour, David Stern.
Never mind that Disney, Ford and Hughes are all long gone, and that Steve Jobs recently died. Their impact lives on. And so will that of Stern as he shuffles off to a comfortable retirement after 30 years spent transforming the NBA into an institution we can't imagine the world without. For all the (often deserved) backlash Stern got for fighting the cultural norms of the players (particularly with the dress code), he has presided over a league that has an omnipresent relationship with American pop culture, haute and otherwise. I mean, you wouldn't ever hear Roger Goodell name-dropped like this.
What's actually funny about the dress code in retrospect is that these days players get tons of attention for their totally non-offensive but intentionally eye-grabbing fashion. When Stern alienated players and fans by mandating business casual, he helped set in motion the stylings of Dwyane Wade, which begat Russell Westbrook and Paul George. In this sense, Stern really is a cultural icon in the world of high fashion. It's just too bad he couldn't do anything to help Tim Duncan.