Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Adam Silver’s strange self-comparison to Henry Kissinger evaporated all the good will from his In-Season Tournament

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Adam Silver is going on a press tour. And he should. That’s what you should do when you orchestrate a huge win. You gloat about it.

Make no mistake — the NBA’s In-Season Tournament is absolutely that. We have no idea what the ratings behind this thing are just yet, but that part doesn’t really matter. There’s been clear buy-in from both players and fans across the board. These games just feel like they matter more — the NBA has been searching for that feeling for years now.

The moment is finally here thanks to this quirky brainchild of Adam Silver. It’s an off-the-wall idea that most people scoffed at when it was first announced. Now, it unequivocally feels like Adam Silver’s biggest accomplishment in the decade he’s been the NBA’s commissioner.

That’s why it’s so confusing to see him talking about literally anything else during this press tour.

One would think that he’d appear on all of these different platforms and simply rattle off numbers and opinions about how successful his new tournament has been as well as what that means for the future of NBA basketball. One might also think he’d throw in a little elevator pitch for that next TV deal the league is so desperately searching for. It’s the perfect time, Adam!

You could’ve given me 10,000 guesses and I would’ve never guessed Silver would’ve said what he said in an appearance on the Pat McAfee show.

McAfee asked Silver if he felt obligated to be a part of “international relations” with other countries considering how much of a global game the NBA has become. All Silver had to do was give a boiler plate answer about how global the league has become and leave it at that.

Instead, the man compared himself to Henry Kissinger. Yes, THAT Henry Kissinger.

I will say, I was reading a lot of those long obituaries around Henry Kissinger’s death at 100. And, where he was an exemplar of one of our great global diplomats. I understand, I mean this is going to be far-field, maybe, to your question. I, of course, believe we have to have a strong military. I’m a big believer in it. At the same time…I think, through sport, through culture, through arts, it brings connectivity together with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds.” 

Far-field might have been putting that kindly. A Henry Kissinger comparison is absolutely not where anyone thought that question was going. Of course, people are absolutely torching Silver online now. As they should be. This was legitimately weird. Things did not have to go this way.

Would you believe me if I said things actually got weirder here? Because they did.

Silver went on to talk about how the World Cup in Qatar was celebrated despite “whatever was going on in those countries. Whatever autocrat or dictator” was in power, everyone accepted the rules of the sport.

Never mind the government-sponsored spyware or the abuse of migrant workers in the process leading up to the event. In Adam Silver’s world, we can set all of that aside. Why? Well, Hooray for Sports! That’s why!

If you boil down the dictionary definition of tone-deafness into a single moment, this might be what that moment looks like. Its Adam Silver mixing a slimy heap of word salad that somehow conflates togetherness and community with rich people buying tickets to sporting events in autocratic countries. This is so silly. But it’s not unexpected. This is the same commissioner of the same league that has opened itself up to sovereign wealth funds. It is what it is. That’s just the way things are going in sports today. Adam Silver isn’t any different from any other league’s commissioner. You have to believe this gobbledygook to have that job. You don’t forsake money to preserve morality.

But, man. Here’s the thing: Did we really have to talk about this today, Adam?

Maybe next time instead of comparing yourself to “controversial” foreign diplomats, you can just keep it chill and talk about your shiny new tournament.

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