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