By C.J. McCollum, for NBA.com
NBA Draft week was a crazy, hectic, but ultimately, life-changing experience. Selected No. 10 by the Portland Trail Blazers, everything got off to a running start, but I still had a lot of questions about my rookie year and life in the NBA. On the day of the Draft, I had the special opportunity to get some answers directly from the best source and ask incoming NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on behalf of #DraftDreams, a site chronicling my journey and the journey of six others to the NBA Draft. Read more at www.draftdreams.com.
The interview with Adam wasn’t the first time I put my college degree to use as I have reported for NBA.com and Sports Illustrated before, but this was definitely a new challenge. Adam graciously took the time to talk to me and share his thoughts about hoops, rookie advice, fashion, the future of the league and how to continue honing my journalism skills. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to share our conversation with you, but first, here are the five most important takeaways I learned. You can read the rest of the conversation after the jump.
1. He has an Instagram account! Follow him @adamsilvernba – there are some really cool photos on there — he clearly has the best access in the NBA and some great behind the scenes shots.
2. If Adam didn’t work at the NBA he’d be in Silicon Valley at a Tech startup. Technology is so important to everything we do. I am definitely on the same page there.
3. A good business lesson he passed on to me from Commissioner David Stern is to practice ‘execution and detail’. Adam learned from David this great business advice as no detail is too small and you can’t cut corners. That’s true in basketball as well as the boardroom.
4. Adam’s favorite pastime is playing catch with his three and-a-half year old Labrador, Eydie. I wish I could have a dog, but right now I wouldn’t be able to take care of it. Adam confirmed it’s a lot of work.
5. If I were Adam’s son, “CJ McSilver“, he would have a preference on which NBA team I should play for because he has no favorite NBA team – every team has its advantages and disadvantages. That may be true, but Portland is definitely going to be a team to beat next year!
Check out our full conversation below:
C.J. McCollum: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. While I have my degree in journalism and used to write and edit for my college newspaper, this is obviously my first time interviewing a future commissioner.
Adam Silver: Thanks for being here and congratulations on your degree in journalism!
CM: Thank you. Let’s get started. As a rookie just entering the NBA, what do you think will be my biggest challenges? Do you have any advice you can offer me?
AS: I think the biggest challenge is how much longer and more difficult the schedule is than college, the wear and tear on the body. Most rookies tend to hit a wall around March because your body is accustomed to only playing hard for so long. Because it’s an 82-game season, you have to be sure to pace yourself throughout the year. There is an extensive travel schedule, and the level of competition is the best in the world. There is a lot to absorb, and there is a lot of activity and distractions around the league. David Stern always says to focus on three things: nutrition, sleep and your game. Everything else can potentially be a distraction.
CM: I graduated from Lehigh with a degree in journalism. What do you suggest I do to hone in on and further develop my skills in journalism?
AS: One of the things I’d suggest you do is exactly what you are doing now. Use that degree while you play in the NBA. So that would mean taking advantage of opportunities to do interviews, whether they are with league executives, teammates, maybe fans and celebrities who follow the game. Use the access that you get by the virtue of being a player in the league. Write as much as you can. I think that writing is a muscle — same thing as working out — and I think if you find opportunities to write blog entries, stories and essays throughout the year that it would be great for you. I think that most great writers are also great readers, so I recommend reading as well. The discipline of writing and sharing what you write with other journalists and writers and asking for feedback, is like asking others to give you feedback on your game. It’s the same thing.
CM: Thank you, that’s really good advice.
My family has been watching the NBA Draft together for years, and this time I will actually be there! We always see you come out to announce the second round and everyone cheers. Who do you think is going to take over the second round once Commissioner Stern retires and you replace him?
AS: It’s a great question because David still has seven months or so left as Commissioner. We haven’t really focused on my successor or the succession plan. I’ll step into the role of getting the boos and someone else will step into the role of getting the cheers.
CM: After working alongside Commissioner Stern for so many years, is there any advice he has given you to help make the transition easier?
AS: One of the things I take from David — and I’ve worked for him for over 20 years — is what he refers to as ‘execution and detail.’ He is an extraordinarily hardworking person with very high standards for all of the people that work with him, and what I’ve learned is that no detail is too small, that you can’t cut corners; not any different than what I’m sure you’ve learned as a basketball player. You get out of it what you put into it. And so I’ve learned from David that you need to be passionate about what you do, and you can never let up because you never know when that critical time will come, when if you’re not paying absolute attention, you’ll slip up. I’ve learned that and so many other things from David, and I’ve been fortunate to work under him for over 20 years now.
CM: If you weren’t involved with basketball and the NBA, what would you do?
AS: I see you’re reading your questions off your iPad. I love technology. I have my iPad, iPad mini, iPhone and Mac laptop. Because I love technology, I think if I were not at the NBA, I would try to be part of a tech startup company. I enjoy my trips out to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Technology is changing the world, it’s changing our sport, it’s changing the way people are following the NBA. We have fans all over the world that are going to be watching you play on their smartphones as opposed to on a big television. If I weren’t at the NBA, I would be involved with a technology company of some sort.
CM: What social media are you involved in? As the future Commissioner, do you have a Twitter account? Who do you follow?
AS: I have a Facebook page, and I post a lot of photos on it. I do the same with Instagram because, for example, at The Finals, I get this really special access that I’m sure fans would love to have … the equivalent of a backstage pass. You get to see guys warming up or you get to see guys greeting each other, legends in the green room or whatever else. I like to post a lot of that content. I have a Twitter handle, but right now it’s anonymous because I’m not tweeting. But I do follow about 150 people. If you have a handle I’m going to start following you. It’s a great way to hear directly from players or others in real time what their feelings are about an event. Often, when I’m watching a game, I can sort of see if there is a controversial call or just an incredible play. It’s the equivalent of almost being in the arena and getting the reaction of the crowd.
CM: Taking you back a little … Before Commissioner Stern put the dress code in place, players were wearing du-rags and large chains. I’d like to know how you would you grade my fashion?
AS: Before this interview started — and I mention this so people don’t think this is a setup — I complimented you on your vest. You definitely get an A. I don’t know if I could match checks and plaids the way you have, you’ve got to have a special touch to do that. Actually, I’d probably give you an A+, not just an A. I’m a little old school, everything’s got a looser fit, but you’re in style because everything is a little tighter and that’s the look. But as you go through the NBA training regimen, you’re going to have to leave a little room in the chest and shoulders.
CM: As you know, I went to Lehigh University. I have to bring this up. Did you watch the game where we beat Duke, your alma mater? Are you still a Duke fan?
AS: Yes, I watched that game. And yes, I’m a Duke fan. You scored 30 points. I remember the game, and, well, the best team won. But that was a devastating loss for us. I’m a huge Duke fan. I obviously went to Duke, am a big fan of the program and Coach K, and I enjoyed working with Coach K and his assistants on the USA Basketball program over the last several years.
CM: Sorry, didn’t want to bring it up, but I had to do it (laughing).
CM: Coming in as the Commissioner, is there anything in the NBA you would like to see changed or run differently?
AS: Well, since I’ve been part of this for so long, if there were something I would have really wanted to see changed, hopefully I would have worked to change it. All I have to say at this point is that I have huge, huge shoes to fill with David Stern stepping down. I’d only be so lucky to continue to grow it in the way that David has over the past 30 years.
CM: What do you like to do for fun or in your spare time?
AS: In my spare time, and you can tell this is my labor of love, because in my spare time I enjoy watching basketball and not just NBA basketball. I watch college basketball and sports in general. I’m also a runner. I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan near Central Park, so I try to squeeze in runs through Central Park when I can. I have a 3-1/2-year-old Labrador named Eydie, so we go to the park as much as we can. She’s coded to retrieve tennis balls, so she gets mad at me when I’m not throwing them.
CM: I want to get a dog, but right now I do too much traveling.
AS: Yeah. After you get a chef, then your next purchase might be multiple dog walkers. It’s a big undertaking.
CM: Here is my last question. If I were your son, CJ McSilver, what team would you want me to play with? What organization from top to bottom would be best?
AS: It’s a tricky question because I love all my teams equally and I really mean it. I think every city has advantages and disadvantages. I’m a big believer in culture, and one of the things we’ve been able to achieve through collective bargaining and revenue sharing is putting each team in a position where, if they are well-managed and create the right culture, they have an opportunity to win. We’re really proud of that.
Some small market teams have big advantages because they are the only major league team in town, so they draw an enormous amount of attention. San Antonio and Oklahoma City may fall in that category, and then you have big city teams like Chicago and New York. But in big city teams you have that many more distractions; not just for the players, but for the fans too because there are so many different entertainment options competing for their time. I’ve been with the league over 20 years, I’ve known players at every team, I’ve known lots of owners, and lots of general managers. I don’t think there is one single formula for success. I think it’s a fantastic 30-team league, and I know you’re going to make the most of any team you’re on and have an incredible career.
CM: Thank you, I appreciate it.
AS: No problem. Good luck!