Adam Silver is not new to the NBA. He didn't become the guy to succeed David Stern because he was some hotshot guy with bright ideas that came in off the street. Silver worked his way from the ground up in the NBA's infrastructure, so he's quite familiar with the way the league works.
However nothing could have prepared him for this situation with Donald Sterling that has completely consumed the NBA during one of the most exciting playoffs in recent memory.
Silver has been on the job for three months, but when he stepped to the podium Tuesday afternoon, he commanded every bit of respect and held every bit of authority as his predecessor did.
As Silver read out his decision on Sterling—a lifetime ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine—his voice shook with obvious anger and disgust. Silver's pause before reading out the words, "for life"—intentional or not—only added to the aura that emanated from him. Silver went on to say he would urge the Board of Governors to force Sterling to sell the team, another sign hateful venom like that spewed by Sterling would not be tolerated in his NBA.
Plenty of people within the NBA who actually knew Silver knew he would be a great commissioner. For those of us on the outside of those circles, there was no telling what Silver would be like as the leader of the best basketball league in the world.
Just looking at Silver compared to Stern was reason enough to be skeptical. Stern is a shorter, stocky man with a disarming smile and a stare that could kill. Silver is the complete opposite. Tall, rail-thin, shaved head and a look that makes it seem he isn't as comfortable glad-handing the high rollers as Stern was.
Then there were the horror stories about Stern. The intimidating conversations, the dictator-like approach he used to rule the NBA were not secrets in the sports world. Silver didn't look like the guy that could do the same thing, but then again, maybe he didn't need to.
Tuesday's press conference was Silver's first major test as commissioner, a chance not only to do the right thing, but to show himself as a man worthy of doing as good a job or better as Stern did during his reign.
Silver passed with flying colors and in the process, proved to basketball fans everywhere there wouldn't be a drop-off in the league under his watch. Handling a person like Sterling, who has power, money and a strong desire to be an owner is not an easy thing. Yet Silver handled him like a lazy fly ball to centerfield. And didn't show any tolerance toward Sterling's comments, comments he has made many times before without any consequence.
This is no longer Stern's NBA. Just three months into his new job, Silver put his stamp on the league with one of the biggest decisions in league history. And he made the right one, too.