THE backcourt tandem of Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Jeremy Lin will definitely draw in the crowd when the NBA holds a historic first ever pre-season game in this basketball-crazy country come October at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But expected to give them a run for their money is the man who’s been at the helm of the league for the past 29 years.
And he’s not even going to play during the October 10 showcase.
NBA commissioner David Stern, according to Hans Sy, is likely to get his share of the attention if and when he decides to accept the invitation of the president of SM Prime Holdings Inc. to grace the game between the Rockets and Indiana Pacers.
“I was kidding him, he’ll be more popular than the two teams if he comes over,” said Sy, who initially touched base with the longtime NBA commissioner when he watched the All-Star Games in Orlando, Florida last year.
“But I think it’s (Stern’s popularity) true,” added the soft-spoken son of business magnate Henry Sy Sr.
It was during that same encounter when Sy conceived the idea for the NBA to play a preseason game in the Philippines.
Sy said he’ll make sure to send a formal invitation to the 70-year-old Stern, a lawyer by profession, to come over and watch how passionate Filipinos are on the game of basketball before he finally steps down as head of the most popular cage league in the whole world.
“I have invited him (Stern), and I’m personally writing to invite him. I wanted him to see the excitement of the Filipinos and the knowledge of Filipinos about the game,” said Sy.
Stern will only be two months in office by the time Rockets and Pacers play here after announcing last October his decision to finally retire from the game by February of next year.
The decision gives him a transition period of training and eventually, turning over the league operations to annointed successor Adam Silver – a move the NBA board is expected to ratify once it convenes in April.
Stern succeeded Larry O’Brien as NBA commissioner in February 1984, and was credited for turning around a once moribund league into the worldwide craze that it has become today.