CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Now set firmly into retirement, former NBA commissioner David Stern did away with all the pleasantries. He pulled the microphone off the podium and stood before a heard of media, giving his press conference the feel of a stand-up comedy set.
The setup matched the discussion, as Stern quipped endless jokes on Michael Jordan and made blunt statements about the Charlotte Hornets' original move to New Orleans, a decision that momentarily left Charlotte without a team and kept the Hornets name away until its return on Wednesday night.
In a conversation filled with gripping moments, perhaps the most interesting came when Stern was asked how much thought he gave to leaving the Hornets name behind when the team relocated. The question was a fair one, and his answer was about as honest as one can get.
"I would say, in fairness, it was probably the same amount of thought that was given to keeping the Laker name in Minneapolis and the Jazz name in New Orleans," Stern said. "So there was no thought."
Stern was in his last season as commissioner when the NBA's Board of Governors unanimously approved of the Hornets return to Charlotte. But even though he was a proponent of its return, Stern said he did not expect it to happen.
"At the time, there was just not a lot of discussion about it," Stern said. "I remember it was the subject of some negotiation when the Sonics left Seattle, but it was just not an item of consideration here because we honestly weren't thinking about a return to Charlotte until a group came literally when the moving trucks were backed up to say, 'Oh, why didn't you ask us, we're happy to do A, B and C.' We said, 'Why didn't you tell us sooner?' "
As commissioner, Stern played a large part in the Hornets' departure, the Bobcats' creation and the Hornets' name return. Fans are, no doubt, thankful for the Hornets' return, but they have no forgotten that Stern made the call when they left. Well before he was booed by fans on Wednesday, Stern said he was impressed by Charlotte's passion for the Hornets.
"I'm very surprised that it had the emotional impact that it did on the community," Stern said. "Pleasantly surprised."