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Adam Silver: An NBA class act

Isaiah Austin of Baylor (R) shakes hands with NBA Commissioner Adam SilverIsaiah Austin of Baylor (R) shakes hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Isaiah Austin of Baylor (R) shakes hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Mike Stobe—Getty Images

When David Stern stepped down from his three-decade run as NBA Commissioner on February 1, 2014, many wondered how the new guy, Adam Silver, who had long been behind the curtain, would handle his responsibilities.

Silver has worked in the NBA since 1992, but as Roger Goodell over at the NFL knows, nothing can quite prepare you for the pressure and spotlight of the top management spot at a major American sports league.

And yet, Silver has risen to the occasion, beginning with his handling of the L.A. Clippers ownership fiasco and continuing, with a more minor, yet significant, second display of ethical integrity: Silver’s drafting of Isaiah Austin.

When Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape making racist remarks to an alleged mistress, Silver’s response was swift and strong. He held a press conference and said the words long-since replayed across the media: “I am banning him for life.” He also fined Sterling $2.5 million (yes, chump change for the Clippers’ owner). Immediately after the ban, Silver received plaudits from current and former NBA figures. Former player Earvin “Magic” Johnson tweeted, “Former and current NBA players are very happy and satisfied with Commissioner Silver’s ruling.” Mark Cuban, outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks, added, “I agree 100% with Commissioner Silver’s findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling.” Silver passed his first test with flying colors, but the next one was a tearjerker.

In the NBA Draft late last month, Silver demonstrated his ability to competently lead the the NBA. Isaiah Austin, a former standout at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is an imposing figure. Standing at 7’1″, Austin was a strong college prospect after averaging 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks during his time at Baylor. Then his life took a tragic turn: just days before the draft, Austin was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that leads to connective tissue problems.

His diagnosis notwithstanding, Silver invited Austin to the draft, and, between the 15th and 16th picks of the first round, Silver said the magic words: “It gives me great pleasure to say that with the next pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the NBA selects Isaiah Austin, from Baylor University.”

Austin will never play in the NBA, but part of his dream has been realized, thanks to Silver’s conscientious leadership. Kevin Durant, small forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, tweeted his support for the move; “Adam silver is such a classy man! That’s love right there. I’m emotional for him.”

So far, it has been relatively smooth sailing for the new commissioner. But even bigger waves will surely roll in.