NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver has sat next to David Stern for many negotiating sessions, meetings, league events and news conferences. It's been Stern's show, but Silver is about to take over.
Stern will step aside as NBA commissioner on Saturday, ending a mega-successful 30 years in office. At week's end, it will be Silver's signature on the NBA ball and Silver's turn to sit in the big chair and try to take the game even higher.
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"It's a long distance between this seat and that seat, and I'm feeling it already," Silver said. "But the league will continue."
Stern helped transform the NBA into a multibillion-dollar entity that is huge internationally. He's leaving the league in great shape, but by all accounts, he's leaving it in great hands, too.
Silver, 51, said he's both "nervous" and "excited," but he's been groomed for this. He's in his 22nd year with the NBA. He's held five positions and has worked directly with Stern. Silver replaced Russ Granik as deputy commissioner in 2006 and already has implemented some changes in the game.
"Adam has learned from David," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "He will have the complete Stern tool chest available to him, but he also will bring his own business ideas, which I think will be great for the NBA."
Stern and Silver have very different styles.
Stern can be forceful and blunt and has a commanding presence. Tall and thin, Silver is more soft-spoken and unassuming, but he's effective and respected. The NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved his promotion to commissioner.
Silver, a Duke alum, has listened to the teams, owners and players and said that will continue. He was behind the increased use of video replay to try to make sure officials got calls right, and changing the NBA Finals format to 2-2-1-1-1 to match the other playoff rounds.
Silver helped negotiate the last few collective-bargaining agreements and two television contracts, and he plans to continue to grow the game outside of the United States.
"He's been the commissioner for the last 10 years," Stern said. "They just haven't given him the check. Everything we've done for the last 22 years we've done together, so it's a piece of cake."
Granik said: "Adam knows the business so well now and has the obvious intellect to be able to deal with problems that come across. I think he's perfectly prepared for it."
Like Stern, Silver is a New York native and was a lawyer first. Stern once worked with Silver's father at prominent sports and entertainment law firm Proskauer Rose, and brought in Adam to be special assistant to the commissioner in August 1992.
Silver continued climbing the NBA ladder. He spent nine years as NBA Entertainment president and chief operating officer before becoming second-in-command.
He shared Stern's visions but added some of his own. It was like old school meets new school. Silver helped the league's popularity by fully embracing technology and the digital age.
"Adam is next generation," former NBA point guard and first vice president of the players' union Keyon Dooling said. "Where David had to be stern, Adam can be more innovative, creative."
Silver launched NBA TV, the first league-owned network, and NBA.com, which has more than 60 websites, including 14 international sections of NBA.com.
The NBA boasts that it's the No. 1 sports league on social media with more than 500 million Facebook likes and Twitter followers across all league, team and player platforms.
"He understands the world we live in today with Twitter and Instagram and all these different things that are relatively new and how you get your message out," NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said. "I think he's going to do great."
One of the first things Silver has to do is name his successor. He also will be responsible for negotiating the NBA's new television deal.
The contract runs through 2015-16, but sometime during this calendar year, the NBA likely will extend the deal with ESPN and Turner that currently is worth $937 million annually.
As for the game itself, Silver has proved he's open to change.
The NBA draft lottery could undergo some tweaks. Silver also said the NBA's competition committee will evaluate whether having divisions to separate teams geographically in each conference still is prudent.
"The league is operating at a wonderful state right now, so I want to be cautious about making any changes," Silver said. "But invariably, we will make changes over time."
Stern looks forward to seeing where Silver takes the NBA next. "To have somebody who's been part of the team for 22 years, who's known and respected by his colleagues who will continue to follow him because he's really led them is a terrific thing," Stern said. "It makes me feel very, very good."