I think David Stern took Hobbes a little too seriously…

December 10, 2011

Political Theory


On Thursday, I as well as many sports fans heard the news of Chris Paul being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. One of the premier point guards in the NBA, Paul has been seeking a trade that would remove him from the New Orleans Hornets. Unfortunately for him, this trade is starting to be known as “The Trade That Wasn’t”.  In a move that took the vast majority of the sports world by surprise, the NBA Commissioner, David Stern, vetoed the trade that would move the superstar from a small market team to one of the most storied franchises in NBA history. Stern, having been criticized before for some of his decisions, is facing even more criticism now. Since this decision, sports analysts and news stations have been commenting on his “power trip” and “monarchial” rule over the NBA. I think it goes without saying that in his Political Theory class Stern agreed heavily with Hobbes’ philosophies portrayed in Leviathan. He has taken it upon himself to be the lone law in the NBA, even as his decisions are repetitively condemned.


Stern released a statement following his decision saying,

“In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”

There are several interesting aspects to analyze from this statement. First is the clause, “free from the influence of other NBA owners”. The reason this is notable is because the often vocal owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, sent a letter to David Stern urging him to cancel this trade. His letter was leaked and now everyone can see his plea to the head honcho. He also says in the letter that the majority of owners disagreed with the trade and that it has to be cancelled. Could this have possibly affected Stern’s decision? And if so, how did he possibly let displeased opponents influence his decisions?

The next part that I find interesting, is “the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade”. Did David Stern look at the proposed trade then? The deal left the Hornets with a draft pick and 4 new players; 3 of which would have started for the Hornets:  Lamar Odom (Los Angeles), Luis Scola (Houston), Kevin Martin (Houston), and Goran Dragic (Houston). The Houston Rockets would have received Pau Gasol from Los Angeles, and Los Angeles would have received Chris Paul. In no way, shape, or form is that deal overly oppressive to any team. Los Angeles gives up 2 of its top 6 players in exchange for 1, and Houston gives up 3 players for a legitimate starting center. New Orleans, finally, gives up their star player in exchange for 4 suitable players. It’s well known that there is zero chance the Hornets hold onto Chris Paul after his contract expires after this season, so why wouldn’t they seek replacements to build around?

This is utterly stupid, which is why David Stern has been widely criticized from virtually every sports media outlet. This is also probably why Stern is letting the teams resubmit the trade proposal in the hopes that it gets passed this time. I don’t care what his motives are, this move was uncalled for. Never in my life as an avid sports fan have I seen a commissioner overstep his bounds like this. His actions mirror what Hobbes’ argued for, in that he believes he has been granted absolute authority. Unfortunately, he is making decisions based on what he wants to see rather than what his constituents want to see, and there is no place for it in this league. Stern was too imposing and involved in this deal, plain and simple, which is why he is ultimately reneging on his decision. But then again, I’ve always been a Locke guy myself and feel that the commissioner should not interfere into decisions like he did, and instead let the teams govern themselves.


Updated:  12/14/2011



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4 Comments on “I think David Stern took Hobbes a little too seriously…”

  1. jrmeller Says:

    This issue has certainly been a hot topic in the past few days. And just recently the Lakers pulled out of the trade and Chris Paul will not be joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Many critics have come out of the woodwork absolutely abusing Stern for his actions. There are 2 reasons especially why:
    1). Sterns actions to cancel the trade were seen as an abuse of his power as Commissioner of the NBA. By no means was the trade unreasonable, it was even, and all three partners of the deal had mutually agreed upon the trade. Stern had no reason to veto the deal, and now the Lakers have given up upon their pursuit of Chris Paul because they do not feel confident that Stern will allow the trade to pass.
    2). The New Orleans Hornets are owned by the NBA, all the revenue that the team generates goes directly to the NBA front office. Stern’s reasoning for vetoing the deal was that it was within the best interest of the Hornets franchise if Chris Paul were to stay with the team. Chris Paul is one of the league’s top, and more marketable players whose skill and talent alone help sell merchandise and tickets. With Paul in New Orleans, members of the league front office make more money.

  2. evanhw Says:

    Watching this controversy unfold has only increased my distaste for David Stern. In this particular situation, it seems that Stern has two major roles in the NBA that conflict each other. Taking the role as the commissioner, who impartially makes decisions that are beneficial to the league as a whole, and as an owner of the Hornets, who makes decisions that are beneficial for the team individually. These two roles, in this way, are at risk due to biased decision making through Stern’s authority of both the league and a team within it. This special privilege should have not been allowed in the first place. David Stern must have seen a situation like this coming and has no excuse for making the mistakes that were made this week. His actions will probably cost him his job and should be categorized as overpowering. I would agree with the author, in that Locke would disagree with Stern’s actions. Stern’s power in the NBA mirrors that of a dictatorship and should be acted on immediately.

  3. djavolio8 Says:

    New Jersey Nets point guard Deron WIlliams put it best, “Stern is a bully. He knows he’s a bully, ain’t no secret. Everybody knows that.” David Stern has time and time again made controversial decisions that nobody outside of some team owners agree with. Fans and players became increasingly frustrated with Stern as he is largely in part responsible for the 120+ lockout that just ended. Had this trade gone through, the Lakers would not only have become a better team, but would have dropped their payroll below the luxury tax threshold. Teams that nobody cares about, like Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers, benefit from this luxury tax as poor performing teams receive the money that high performing teams are forced to pay for spending large sums of money on players.

    In the only possible area of defense for David Stern, the letter that Dan Gilbert sent Stern was actually emailed after the commissioner had decided to block the trade. While this could be interpreted as a breath of fresh air in that Stern is not being swayed but team owners, it can always be seen in a manner that means David Stern is just an (expletive) and doesn’t care about the success of the league so long as he has a payday. New York Knick forward Carmelo Anthony did however say that Stern got one thing right. That being making the slogan for the NBA be, “Where Amazing Happens.” Stern did the inexplicable and I believe it was a move that could forever change sports.

  4. ethankurtzman Says:

    Being born and raised in Los Angeles, as a Lakers fan, Stern’s actions frustrated me more than you could even imagine. Having been deprived of a good portion of this NBA season (from the 2011 lockout), I was excited to see my favorite stars (mainly Kobe) back in action. However, I believe David Stern had something different in store for fans like me. In my opinion, David Stern has attempted to avert the limelight from the NBA stars onto himself. This man is a prime example of someone who has gone utterly power hungry. Because of his beliefs, I lost over 6 weeks of NBA entertainment and now I lost the opportunity of being able to see Chris Paul bring new life to the Lakers. I think you nailed the title of this post, Stern has absolutely taken a page out of Hobbes’ Leviathan and ran rampant with his ideologies. Step down from your high horse Stern and let the NBA play out like it has done so successfully for the past 65 years.

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