David Stern pleased to see Raptors thrive, regrets Grizzlies’ failure

David Stern pleased to see Raptors thrive, regrets Grizzlies’ failure
“We have to move on,” he added. “To continue to hear about people not wanting to come here is actually irritating after a while. It is. Come on. Let’s be real. People like it here.”

Stern oversaw the NBA’s expansion to Canada during his tenure, with both the Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies joining the league ahead of the 1995-96 campaign.

But while the Raptors have flourished after some early struggles, the Grizzlies only lasted six seasons before moving to Memphis in 2001.

“I consider (Toronto) a great success,” Stern said. “Just as I consider Vancouver to be one of our failures.”

Speaking ahead of Monday’s Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony that will see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who worked under Stern with the NBA for more than a decade, inducted, the 76-year-old still wonders what might have been with the Grizzlies.

“It doesn’t gnaw [at me],” Stern said. “But when I think of it I regret that it was never really [given] the attention that it deserved, because it’s a beautiful and extraordinary city.”

The Grizzlies’ brief life in Vancouver was plagued by a grocery list of issues, including terrible teams, questionable front-office decisions and a weak Canadian dollar.

Stern said it felt at the time like they couldn’t catch a break.

“It was just awful to me,” he continued. “I still remember granting the expansion franchise [and] I was so thrilled that we had a franchise in Vancouver.

“It was never managed to great success.”

Stern also believes there’s a chance the NBA might one day return to Canada’s west coast.

“Vancouver still has a great building that it had when we were there.”

Stern also touched on the recent announcements of sports betting partnerships signed by NBA and NHL following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last spring that permits states to allow gambling on games.

And while the ruling presented new realities for leagues, Stern said the horses were let out of the barn for him long before May’s ruling.

“My view changed when everyone said that daily fantasy (sports) was an acceptable way for companies to operate — which I considered to be betting under another name,” he said. “For me it was game over. You might as well move on.

“Times change, and attitudes change given the combination of tax dollars available and illegal betting that usually goes to organized crime. Let’s try it. I’m a changed man.”
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