Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 10/26/12
MIAMI David Stern will have some rings to hand out Tuesday to the Heat. Miami forward Shane Battier will have something for Stern. Stern announced Thursday he will retire as NBA commissioner Feb. 1, 2014. So when he greets the Heat before their regular-season opener, it will mark the next-to-last time he honors a defending champion. Ill hug him because I enjoy my life, Battier said Friday when reflecting upon Sterns tenure since he took over in 1984. Battier said hes been thinking plenty about Sterns legacy since Thursdays announcement. Hes come even more to the realization how fortunate he is to be playing in this era. Were doing something that we would be doing for free, playing basketball for living. The fact that Im able to make this my career and earn a significant amount of money speaks directly to David Sterns genius, said Battier, a 12-year veteran who has made more than 50 million in his career. The guy really was an innovator, and I dont know if weve seen a marketer and a businessman like him in the sports arena before. When he took over the league, the league was riddled with drugs and with bad basketball and no marketability. To turn it into what it is now, its a huge testament to David Stern. Plenty of tributes about Stern came from Heat players Friday before they faced New Orleans in their preseason finale. Forward LeBron James, the worlds biggest basketball star, talked about how he has been aided by the NBAs advancement under Stern. Hes done so many great things for the league for what the league was when he entered to where it is now,'' James said. "Its a global game. His visions have led to that for this game to be, not only broadcast here in America, but in so many different countries . That was his vision. Of course, it wasnt all him. But he had that vision and the people around him helped him execute that. So hes made this game global. And Im happy that Im able to benefit from it and everybody in the league is able to benefit from it. Had the current NBA rules been in effect when James was drafted, he would have had one less year to benefit. James entered the NBA directly from high school in 2003 before the league, starting with the 2006 draft, required players to attend college for a year. Stern pushed for that rule. But James has no qualms with that. The rules are the rules, James said. I live by the rules. I was in position where I was able to come straight out and its benefiting me. Tuesday will mark the second time Stern has handed out rings to the Heat. The first was at the 2006-07 opener, four months after Finals MVP Dwyane Wade had led Miami to its first crown. Wade was among those who reflected Friday on Stern, who will be replaced in about 15 months by deputy commissioner Adam Silver. Hes made an impact on this game. There are arguably a lot of things that you can say about David negatively and things positively from the standpoint of growing the game, said Wade, who didnt want to go into any of those negative things. Hes grown this game tremendously. Hes a tough cookie, its no secret about that. But hes had an unbelievable run of being a leader, the head, and hopefully Adam will come in next and continue to make this game as great as it is for when my kids play one day. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who is half Filipino, talked about the diversity there is now on coaching staffs and in front offices since Stern took over. Spoelstra, who regularly travels overseas during the offseason, said the NBA is now far ahead of other U.S. pro sports leagues when it comes to popularity abroad. Its just worldwide now, Spoelstra said. Now this is arguably the second-most (popular) global sport in the world (after soccer), and it would have been impossible to have imagined that 30 years ago . When I go to Asia, you see so many NBA jerseys and you see obviously the soccer jerseys. But you dont see the other American pro sports jerseys at all. In China, where he is extremely popular due to having a shoe deal with the Chinese company Peak, plenty of Battier jerseys are seen. Thats just one of the reasons why Battier wants to hug Stern. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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