David Stern has never been shy about pushing hard to get what he wants, and a recent anecdote reveals that he wanted Stephen A. Smith’s loud talking-head shtick put to a halt.
As divulged in Those Guys Have All The Fun, Stern had a contentious relationship with ESPN early on as the NBA segued from leaving NBC to join ABC/ESPN. Unhappy with how Stephen A. was covering his beloved league, as he over-sensationalized at times, the Commissioner had the league put together a Best of the Worst package of Smith’s coverage.
After the footage was put together, Stern took the video himself and hand-delivered it to ESPN, but the President of the Worldwide Leader in Sports was not seeing eye-to-eye with Stern and did nothing about it.
In Those Guys, he's diplomatic: "With Stephen A. we simply wanted clarification. We thought we had two different personalities—the Stephen A. on CNN, and the Stephen A. from his column. I call Stephen A. a friend—he is smart and articulate—and all I said to him was 'There's somebody who is trying to program you in a way that is not you.'"
Stern did a lot more than that, however. According to a source, the commissioner had someone make a sort of lowlight reel of Stephen A.'s television appearances, whereupon he personally delivered the videotape to then-ESPN president George Bodenheimer. Bodenheimer was apparently unmoved.