Welcome to the role of NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver. On Feb. 1, 2014 you get to succeed your 20-year mentor David Stern as the most powerful man in basketball. Before you hang the paintings in your office, however — actually, do this now, before you even choose what you want on the wall — this won’t be a situation where you can step into the league’s golden years. You will be only four years removed from the last NBA lockout and its cries of financial instability, and even more issues face you. There are many, of course. Here are our picks for the top five.
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5. THE NBA’S PLACE IN THE OLYMPICS
Want to increase revenues? How about ripping out the NBA player from the Summer Olympics, creating a league-owned tournament, selling TV rights and sharing the revenue? That’s not my idea, though, it’s the league’s — and one that had nearly every U.S. Olympian opposed to it this summer. The option of an age-limit, which is a not-so-sly way of having your Olympics cake and reaping in the revenue of a World Cup, too, is just as unpalatable for players now, though I believe we could all get used to it quickly. But back to whether you want the NBA involved at all in the Olympics. Now, the NBA acts as a gracious if suspect owner in loaning out its talent for the World Championships and Summer Olympics. The revenue they see from it is tangential — jersey sales, not TV. But that lack of monetary reward is what is precisely so great about the Olympics — well, outside of the host organizing committee — and why it’s seen as not just a diversion or national pride, but a celebration. Silver will have to decide whether to sever the Olympics cord by 2020 after an age-limit consideration was nixed for Rio de Janeiro. What makes it hard is that cutting off that connection means doing so to a basketball channel that became so popular because of the NBA’s own involvement in 1992. We’ve always known Stern was not in favor of loaning NBA stars even before Barcelona, instead smiling graciously and praying no star was massively injured. Would Silver pull the plug?
4. UNIFORM ADS
The Board of Governors has tabled the discussion of uniform ads to April, but it’s a topic Silver has been open to before but Stern has not favored. Two estimates have pegged the revenue at either $100 million annually or nearly $160 million annually — for a league that claimed it lost $300 million annually just one year ago, it would seem that cashing in is a no-brainer. The patch itself is only 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches, and yet Silver has to face the issue as his first, literally visible stamp on the league. Sure he could increase revenues, but that decision would be the first by the Big Four leagues to do it. If he does it there would be no turning back. Ripping off sponsorship patches if fan reaction isn’t positive, and taking that money out of the bank, is harder than just switching back to the old basketball.