Posted January 29, 2014

All-Sanctioned Team: Players, coaches and a mascot that drew David Stern’s ire

Ben Golliver, David Stern, Gilbert Arenas, Gregg Popovich, J.R. Smith, Kobe Bryant, Mark Cuban, Metta World Peace, NBA, Rasheed Wallace, The Point Forward All-Stars
David Stern

If you crossed David Stern over the last 30 years, you likely paid for it. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

“The Point Forward All-Stars” will have a new theme each week centered on a single shared trait that brings together the team members. This week, with NBA commissioner David Stern set to step down on after 30 years on the job this Saturday, we look back at some of the most memorable fines and suspensions from his tenure.

Previously: The All-Grateful Team | The East’s All-Letdown Team | The All-Atrocious Team | The All-Ignored Team | The All-Stocking Stuffer Team | The All-Recalibration Team | The All-Payday Team | The All-Gridiron Team


The All-Sanctioned Team

David Stern will be remembered for his many business virtues — he was a shrewd-negotiating, global-thinking marketing visionary — but, like any commissioner, he was also his league’s Disciplinarian-in-chief. Blessed with the perfect surname for that aspect of his job, Stern wasn’t afraid to be the bad guy, and indeed he often seemed to relish the role, and the all-powerful image his sanctions helped cultivate.

Over the years, Stern fined and suspended players for all sorts of things: questioning the officials, failing drug tests, getting into fights on the court, posting Twitter messages during games, and, during the last two seasons, flopping. Owners, coaches, and entire organizations couldn’t escape his iron first, either.

As Stern prepares to pass the torch, and the gavel, to deputy commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday, here’s a rundown of the longtime commissioner’s greatest hits to opposing pocketbooks, with a primary focus on hijinks from the last decade.

(Many thanks to the NBA fines and suspensions database at Eskimo.com for its assistance.)

Owner: Mark Cuban, Mavericks

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban has been fined at least 20 times by David Stern. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

“David Stern’s bad side” has always had a “wrong side of the tracks” meets “Bermuda Triangle” vibe to it: most everyone tries as hard as humanly possible to stay away from it, lest they disappear forever. Not billionaire Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, though, who took over in Dallas in 2000 and promptly set up a homestead ranch in Stern’s dog house. Cuban has been fined at least $1.9 million for at least 20 infractions since taking over the Mavericks, and no one has come close to taking as much joy in representing the anti-establishment to Stern’s establishment over the last decade. Earlier this month, Cuban, who has long crusaded against the league’s officials and officiating practices and policies, intentionally drew a $100,000 finefor walking onto the court to dispute a controversial endgame sequence that went against Dallas. It was his way of saying goodbye to Stern.

“I couldn’t let the [commissioner] go without a proper farewell,” Cuban wrote on Twitter, once the press release bearing Stern’s name rolled in. “It’s been a fun 14 years of trying to create change and donating to the [doughnut] fund!”

Cuban’s list of infractions is both extraordinarily long and extraordinarily funny, and it includes:

• $100,000 for sitting on the baseline during a 2001 game. (“They said it wasn’t fitting for an owner to sit there,” Cuban replied. “Ridiculous.”)

• $250,000 in 2001 for having his arena’s JumboTron display a freeze frame image of a late-game goaltending by Detroit that wasn’t called and encouraging media members to take pictures of it. (“The refs were pitiful and I don’t care if I get fined,” Cuban said, before adding that referee Tommy Nunez tried to “take over the game” and that the missed call was “ridiculous.”)

• $100,000 for flashing the choking sign at officials in 2001.

• $500,000 for a vicious criticism of then-head of officials Ed Rush in 2002. (“Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen,” Cuban said.)

• $10,000 for encouraging a player to retaliate against Bruce Bowen after the Spurs forward elbowed Michael Finley. (“I told one of our guys when you get up close, slap the ball right into his face and I’ll pay the fine, Cuban declared.)

• $100,000 for blogging about how to improve the officiating during the playoffs.

• $25,000 for yelling at J.R. Smith for throwing an elbow in 2009. (Cuban later wrote to Smith on his blog: “In the spirit of the joy of my getting fined and your not getting the tech, have the Nuggets PR folks contact the Mavs PR folks and I will donate [$25,000] to the charity of your choice.”)

• $100,000 for tampering by discussing LeBron James prior to the 2010 free agency period.

Midseason grades for all 30 teams | Awards | First-half report

Mark Cuban; David Stern

Something tells me they weren’t discussing where to get dinner. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

The most indelible image from the Stern vs. Cuban feud came after Game 5 of the 2006 Finals against the Heat, when Cuban went on to the court to protest the officials. The Miami Herald reported that Cuban yelled “Your league is rigged!” at Stern, but both parties vehemently denied that (Cuban’s reaction: “Apparently this ‘reporter’ [writer Greg Cote] has written he has several ‘sources.’ Well they must be the same sources the tabloids use to find two-headed [babies] and aliens, because it didn’t happen”). Regardless, Cuban was fined $250,000 for yelling at an official, screaming in the direction of Stern and using a profanity during his post-game interview. Stern also scolded Cuban’s “loss of self control” and for “[setting] a bad tone” while asserting that his behavior was “not healthy for either him or the game” and was a distraction to his players.

In the years following the Mavericks’ 2006 Finals loss, Cuban’s fines have generally been smaller and less frequent, but his unhappiness with the state of the league’s officiating remains, even after he won his first title in 2011. If the Stern/Cuban relationship hasn’t quite produced a true reform story, it has been a lesson that everything in the NBA, even the loss of money, has marketing and public relations potential.

“I think it’s great,” Cuban, who regularly matched his fines with charitable donations, said of Stern’s sanctions in 2001. “There is no way we could spend $250,000 to get this type of promotion for the Mavs. The articles will be mostly the same: ‘Mark Cuban was fined again, crazy guy, but the Mavs are playing well and are in the playoff hunt.’ And tons of people will buy Mavs merchandise and more will come to the games — just like the last time I was fined.”

15 comments
David102
David102

As a Detroit Pistons fan, I feel there should be a team entry and we are it. Not only did Stern fine our players at a conspicuously high rate, but he had a funny way of tweaking league rules whenever the Pistons established a dominant defense. 

OldDadTheBoss
OldDadTheBoss

Rodman was a nut, but he did most of his craziness off the court. While on it, he defended, rebounded and generally contributed to the game itself, with various colored hair and wearing a wedding dress one time. Any negativity concerning 'the Worm' happened away from the arena.

nrwillick
nrwillick

No Rodman? How is he not on this list?

OldDadTheBoss
OldDadTheBoss

Cuban could have probably handled his disdain for today's refs a little better, but he was right most of the time. He'd have loved to be the owner when refs like Mendy Rudolf and Richie Powers ran the floors. Those guys got it right, didn't need 'make up' calls, or 'T' you up right away. If you had a beef, they'd let you go on about it, as long as you didn't say the wrong word. They were well respected by players and coaches alike. Of course, players were more professional in attitude then also, not like what's bouncing up and down the courts these days.

Zeshan
Zeshan

As a Seattle resident/fan, I don't understand how the Sonics aren't Stern's most sanctioned team. He didn't hate anyone or place more.


And as a Seattle resident/fan, Stern, may you go softly into that good-riddance.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

Little midget dictator Stern.  Just like another fat little stub in N Korea.  Criticize his regime and he'll toss you out of his league.  Any wonder why no one qiuestions when the refs make calls in one direction each game? It only takes a very subtle few calls to influence a game since most games are decided by 4 points or less.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

people still care about the NBA?

Hello1813
Hello1813

Funny, I would have guessed Latrell Sprewell to be listed here instead of Kobe.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

David Stern should be investigated for league fixing.  There are too many games that the refs have decided for this to be random.  Somewhere in a Swiss bank account, Stern probably has amassed a large fortune betting on the games.

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

@PhillyPenn il start watching again when the refs dont stop play on every single possession....and flopping is addressed appropriately. Until then its unwatchable 

newshamg
newshamg

@Nate the Pate Not too bright are you? I know the slow of thinking love a good conspiracy theory but just stop.

Nate the Pate
Nate the Pate

@newshamg@Nate the Pate 

Dipschit, this isn't a conspiracy theory.  Just like Tim Donaghey wasn't a conspiracy theory.  I suppose the mafia fixing boxing matches and games and even stocks is a conspiracy too.  Stern has all the power.  All he needs to do is have a few refs willing to go along with it.  Jackholes like you probably thought the WWF was real back then too.

newshamg
newshamg

@TerrapinStation87 @newshamg @Nate the Pate Look, I know uneducated fools want to feel special - but get that feeling somewhere else. Seeing conspiracies everywhere is a weakness of the psyche allied to a failure to understand.