NBA commissioner David Stern has wielded unquestioned power over his sport in a way rarely seen during the past 30 years. He will retire in February 2014, handing power over to to his longtime deputy, Adam Silver. It is unlikely that any commissioner will exert the sheer domination that Stern exercised again. So what is his legacy?

In 1984 the National Basketball Association was a very different league. The sport's premiere event, the NBA Finals, had been shown on tape delay on television at 11:30 p.m., as recently as 1981, and other playoff games continued to be on tape delay through 1986. Teams like Chicago were lucky to draw 7,000 fans a night. The average salary in the league was well under $250,000. Franchises could be purchased for as little as $11 million. The four-year deal for national television with CBS was worth $91 million. The popular perception was that no game was worth watching until the final two minutes because every game was decided at the last minute. The NBA was not considered a sport at the same level of the NFL, Major League Baseball or college football. Stern dramatically changed that table.

Stern understood the concept of branding and marketing. He pushed the players to be as attractive and media friendly in their public appearances as possible. He saw the natural rivalry and star power of the Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson competing against the Boston Celtics with Larry Bird. Their contests were always featured on national television. He realized how shoe companies could help build the brand, especially Nike, and how that would lead to endless hours of free exposure for basketball.

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As technology progressed, he became adept at utilizing every platform of content supply, twitter to mobile phones to reach fans. He pushed the creation of a NBA network. He had NBA players compete in the Olympics starting with the 1992 "Dream Team." That led to outreach world-wide and the internationalization of the NBA as a world sport. He saw the potential in China and other foreign markets. He understood the concept of "star power." He was fortunate to have the Michael Jordan era followed by Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and other recognizable figures that became household names. He also added seven expansion franchises, extending the reach of the league. And he created a luxury tax system to deal with market inequity in which the lowest income teams split up $180 million.

The economic explosion occasioned by the reshaping of the NBA was dramatic. Revenue increased exponentially. National television increased from a USA/ESPN/CBS combined package for the league of $28 million per year to the TNT/ESPN/ABC package of $930 million per year. This doesn't count local or regional television contracts. The Lakers signed a deal with Time-Warner Cable, which starts this year which pays them $200 million a year. The Celtics signed an agreement with Comcast Sports Net New England, which gives the team a 20 percent equity stake in the network and doubles their rights to roughly 38 million per year.

Television revenue has a direct effect on franchise value. The Lakers value expanded to a NBA-high $900 million based on their Time-Warner deal. The Golden State Warriors deal with Comcast pushed their value up to $450 million, roughly a 25 percent increase. Jerry Reinsdorf bought the Bulls in 1985 for $16 million and today they are valued in the range of $600 million.

The players were beneficiaries of the new financial largesse. The average salary of an NBA player today is $5.15 million. The highest paid player in the ;eague is Kobe Bryant at 27 million. Keep in mind that many rosters have "maxed out superstars" and players at the $300,000 minimum. Endorsement revenue can more than double the on-court income of a player like Kobe Bryant. NBA players have the advantage over other sports that fans can see their bodies and faces clearly and their shoe-wear translates into every day wear.

When it came to labor negotiations, the mask of cordiality disappeared from Stern and a harsher, more bullying side emerged. It was evocative of the corporate theory of "Bulwarism" which evolved in the labor negotiations of the 1930's. Management scientifically decided what was the only rational position for both sides and was unwavering in the face of all odds.

As meticulously as he protected the NBA image in other areas, he was content to endure strike after lockout after missed game to achieve his goals. He made antagonistic public comments about the players, their leadership, and their position as if the public really has a stake in a battle between what it perceived as millionaires versus billionaires. He was successful in imposing a salary cap on teams and rookies, which protected management from them. He did reduce the percentage that players receive of the gross revenues from basketball from 57 percent to 49 percent. That will save owners some $3 billion is salary and benefits in the next ten years.

Ego and arrogance aside, David Stern radically changed to scope and popularity of the NBA in a way that has benefited fans, owners and players and it is doubtful that a figure that omniscient will rise soon again.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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For many years Major League Baseball had a stunning disparity of revenue between “big market” and “small market teams. In the NFL the major revenue source is network television and it is split into 32 equal shares. Each NFL team is receiving $170 million dollars this year. Although there are differentials in seat and sponsorship revenues, a salary cap insures that each team has enough payroll parity to remain competitive. In baseball, with 162 regular-season games and a spring training schedule, it has been local television and radio in addition to gate, which defines the capacity of teams to spend.

It is not only the size of a city but the size of a regional market that makes a difference in baseball. The enormous region surrounding New York, the No. 1 market in the nation, allowed the Yankees to own part of their own television network -- YES. They receive $90 million per season from their television contract and millions more from radio. Several years ago, the contrast between their local revenue from television and radio compared to Seattle was about 8 to 1. Baseball does not have an actual salary cap. The Yankees payroll is $197 million while San Diego and the Oakland A's are at $55 million.

Payroll does not necessarily equate to on-field dominance. Arizona has won a World Series and Tampa Bay has gone deep in the post-season. The A's are the surprise team this year even with a relatively skimpy payroll. Good scouting, maintenance of a superior farm system, excellence in administration, terrific field managers, team chemistry and motivation all play a role.

The ability of the Yankees or the Dodgers and Angels to sign high priced free agents does give them an advantage. The Dodgers make $100 million from their local television deal with Prime Ticket, of which they own 30 percent. The Angels receive $95 million and a 25 percent equity stake from Fox Sports West.

The revenue influx in Major League Baseball has been turned upside down with the recent signing of lucrative network television deals with Fox, ESPN and TBS.

Fox, which broadcasts a Saturday regular-season game each week under its current deal will double regular season game rights from 26 to 52 games under the new contract. Twelve of those will be telecast exclusively on Fox, but they have the right to telecast another 40 games, which will probably end up on their new national sports network. It is an eight-year deal for $4 billion dollars that gives teams $500 million dollars to share. It doubles the old deal, which was $257 million a year.

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ESPN recently did their own eight-year deal for $5.6 billion dollars. This gives teams another $700 million to share. The old deal, in total, was for $700 million.

TBS did a recent eight-year deal for $2.4 billion. This doubles the previous contract. Altogether these television contracts total $12 billion or $1.5 billion a year for teams to split -- this doubles the $711 million they received previously. Each team will receive as much as $50 million per team.

Major League Baseball has enjoyed an extraordinary resurgence since the crippling strike of 1994 resulting in the cancelling of the entire playoffs and World Series. The following season saw a precipitous drop in attendance as angry fans boycotted. The record-breaking home run competition between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved the game. The labor peace that followed allowed the League to focus on new revenue sources. Naming rights, sponsorship, premiere seating, marketing and memorabilia and Fantasy Baseball all have flourished. The gross receipts quadrupled. Owners stopped complaining about their finances. The game had a resurgence in popularity.

The 2012 season and the new playoff format which adds a new wild card team has been remarkably exciting and popular. The Yankees and Orioles went to the end of the season virtually tied. The White Sox and Tigers fought right up to the end. The Washington Nationals emerged as a new powerhouse. Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years. Mike Trout set a new standard for electrifying rookie play. Add the doubling of national television revenue to local radio, gate and merchandising, and Major League Baseball is entering a Golden Age.

Is the National Hockey League paying attention?

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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MLB, NHL

I was born in New York. But as a baseball fan, I was born in Baltimore.

After having lived in four other cities during the first five years of my life, my family moved to Baltimore County in the fall of 1977. I attended my first Orioles game the following spring.

The only memory I have of the game is this: My family was seated in the lower bowl of Memorial Stadium. In my mind's eye, at least, we were about 15 rows behind home plate, a little to the third base side. During one of the middle innings, a gentleman sitting behind us tapped my dad on the shoulder. "Hey, you know who that is sitting across the aisle, right? Al Bumbry. Maybe he'd give the kids an autograph."

The Birds' speedy centerfielder happened to be on the disabled list at the time and was taking in the game from the stands. (Impossible to imagine a big leaguer doing that today.) Bumbry obliged my sheepish request and signed my game program.

My baseball memories from the next few years are pretty fuzzy. Although I don't remember any of the 1979 World Series specifically, I distinctly remember hating the Pirates after they came back from a three games to one deficit to beat our Birds. Hating them and their stupid pillbox-style caps. And hating their stupid adopted theme song, Sister Sledge's "We are Family."

Despite that Series loss, I was hooked. Beginning with the 1979 season, when I was seven, the Orioles would finish first or second in the AL East for five consecutive years, and for all I knew, this was how it worked: The Orioles would, at worst, always contend for a division title. My confidence was reinforced by a page that appeared in the game programs they sold at Memorial Stadium during that era. (We always bought the programs so I could keep score. Most of them, ticket stubs stapled to the covers, are still in my bedroom closet at my parents' home.) As I recall it, the page bore the bold proclamation that the Orioles had been the most successful team in pro sports over the previous 25 years, which to me might as well have been forever. More wins than the Yankees over that span. A better winning percentage than the Oakland Raiders. And so on.

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Southern California caught NHL fever earlier this year. It was the first time that I've seen car flags, viewing parties, television news focus and large-scale excitement for hockey. Had the Kings' Stanley Cup drive been a movie, it would have faded to black and been followed by a flowering of interest in hockey. Instead, the players are locked out and the amount of publicity and interest around the NHL has been allowed to wane.

The National Hockey League has a unique penchant for self-destructiveness in the way it conducts negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. They have met the enemy and they are the enemy. The take-no-prisioners approach of Commissioner Gary Bettman toward the players assures maximum damage to the brand and fan appeal of the NHL.

The current impasse and lockout is a sure path to mutually assured destruction. The National Football League is the overwhelming first preference of American sports fans. Roughly 180 million fans saw at least one televised game last week. They have developed a series of ancillary revenue sources that have pushed the average value of a franchise to more than a billion dollars. The Cleveland Browns sold earlier this year for that figure. League growth is a direct result of labor peace. They signed a new CBA in the summer of 2011 that covers ten playing seasons. Those negotiations concluded before a single pre-season game was played. Fans did not have the spectre of millionaires fighting with billionaires at a time of national economic distress rubbed in their faces.

And everyone knows that the games will be played and the action will stay on the field. Major League Baseball had a disastrous strike in 1994 and attendance dropped by 40 percent. It took the McGwire-Sosa home run race to bring the sport back in favor. They learned the lesson of the value of labor peace. The gross revenues of MLB have quadrupled since and the focus is on building brand and driving revenue. The NBA missed part of last season with a Pyrrhic lockout from which it is still recovering.

The NHL has never had the status and popularity of those three other team-sport leagues. Pro hockey developed as a sport centered in Canada, the Northeast, and parts of the upper Midwest. Snow doesn't fall in much of the country, and skating and hockey can be acquired tastes. Many fans of other sports haven’t seen hockey played and don't know the rules.

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The NHL embarked on a major expansion of its reach throughout the 1990's. The sport started to catch fire in the Sun Belt states. Young people crowded arenas in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. They were gaining momentum and popularity -- and then came the 2004 lockout. The 2004-05 season was lost. That was already Commissioner Bettman's second lockout since taking office, we are now experiencing the third. The 2004 meltdown had a chilling effect on the growth of the league. The players ended up accepting a 24 percent reduction in existing contracts and the imposition of a salary cap.

Since 2005 the NHL worked hard to rebuild its popularity. Annual industry revenue has grown from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion under the expiring contract. The last Stanley Cup pitted teams from the No. 1 and No. 2 television markets, and Los Angeles has the champion.

Player revenue, even with a cap, has grown to 57 percent of hockey-related revenue and the league has been thriving. Just when the NHL substituted exciting action on the ice in place of brand-killing labor stoppages it has fallen on its own sword again. We all know what the definition of insanity is.

The NHL is attempting to reduce player share of revenues by 10 percent to a figure of 47 percent. When a league is thriving and growing, it is hard to make the argument it should result in lowered player compensation. Don Fehr, who headed MLB's Players Association for years is now the head of the NHL Players Association. Fehr is a tough and wily negotiator who brought baseball players untold riches. He knows how to inform and unite players so that they form a solid, unshakable bargaining unit. With Fehr representing the players and confrontational Bettman representing the owners, the possibility for a lengthy deadlock looms large.

The NHL needs to look at the bigger picture and concentrate on building their brand and fan base. This lockout is the wrong tactic at the wrong time.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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