In NBA Lockout, David Stern Negotiates Like Godzilla: Torch First, Ask Questions Later

As NBA lockout drama continues, David Stern again sets an unreasonable demand that has no purpose but to make everyone anger and sets the talks aflame.

These NBA lockout negotiations really have resembled something every parent deals with on a regular basis when their kids are young, and David Stern looks a lot like the two-year-old and the dad at wit's end. With his steadfast refusal to actually negotiate in a civil manner (pounding his fists and feet on the ground), his toothless ultimatums ("no dinner, I don't care if you starve!") and his insistence that he is certainly, without question, absolutely right, Stern has managed to make himself look tyrannical from every angle.

But under every tussle during the terrible twos, there's legitimate love and caring, and there's also the fact that two-year-olds have no idea what they are doing. It's a learning process, something that shapes babies into people who can make reasonable requests, occasionally take "no" for an answer and effectively negotiate their positions without resorting to a tantrum or empty threats.

Apparently, David Stern missed those lessons.

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More accurately, he unlearned them as the reigning dictator of the NBA, where he's never met a foe he couldn't shove into place. Anyone who has ever laid down for Stern has enabled this nonsense, this sense that he is above all reason. We have created a monster.

He's a bully, plain and simple. How else should we take the threats he has no intention of keeping? After Saturday night's blow-up, Stern told reporters that the 50-50 revenue split offer will be on the table until Wednesday, and then the proposal from the NBA will get worse. That would actually mean something if he hadn't been saying that the league's offers would start getting worse if the players didn't cave repeatedly since June. Remember Stern's "enormous consequences"? Remember how he'd have to account for missed games in the owners' next offer? Remember how just last week he acted as if he were doing the players a favor by offering 50-50, considering that some owners wanted to go back to 47-53? Stern has been pushing the same threat constantly. Meanwhile, shockingly, the league's offer continues to get better.


To make progressively better offers while shouting about how offers are going to get worse if this one isn't accepted is the work of a lunatic, or at least a tyrant. Meanwhile, Stern continually sets deadlines that end up meaning nothing. In early October, he set a date to save the first two weeks of the season. Talks broke off. He cancelled games. Three weeks later, with talks back on, Stern told the entire world that they would fit as many games as possible in -- 82, even -- if a deal was struck. When it wasn't, almost a month after his original deadline, he finally said that there was no chance for an 82-game season.

So I guess by that math 50-50 will actually come off of the table in December.

What do y'all think would have a better chance of achieving the league's 50-50 deal by Wednesday: a Stern ultimatum on Saturday, or legit negotiation with a lack of do-or-die, "enormous consequences" fire-breathing over the next few days? If you are reasonable, you pick the latter. Ultimatums haven't solved a thing for Stern to date, not in this negotiation. As I wrote last month, he's become a parody of himself. He has negotiated in the public as James Van Der Beek would if you assigned James Van Der Beek to portray Stern in the lockout blockbuster Disaster On 34th Street


Saturday's ultimatum is something a first-year film school student could write. And Stern had to know what effect it would have, especially after having fought with union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler for decades. The ultimatum looks like it has galvanized the players. They are not necessarily galvanized behind Derek Fisher or Billy Hunter or Paul Pierce. But they are galvanized against David Stern. That's not good for anyone who wants to see pro basketball this season, and we've got one man to blame.

The NBA, where nothing but bulls--t happens.


The Hook typically runs Monday through Friday. See the archives.

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