The passing of former NBA Commissioner David Stern on New Year’s Day unleashed a flood of tributes. Many called Stern, who was at the helm of the NBA from 1984 through 2014, the most important commissioner in professional sports history. For my money, longtime NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle deserves that title, but there is little doubt that Stern was very influential in making the once distant third professional sport in America into the biggest one on the international stage.

Based on what I read about him and my experiences, Stern wasn’t easy to deal with, as he would always challenge you. The first few times I met him I found him to be dismissive.

One time he looked at my credential and asked me with a somewhat intimidating intonation, “What’s the Queens Chronicle?” I was determined not to let him push me around. “We’re not the PS 132 Bugle if that’s what you’re implying. The Queens Chronicle is Queens’ largest weekly newspaper with a print circulation of 160,000. We have as much right to cover the NBA as we do the PSAL,” I immediately responded. He was always very cordial with me after that, especially the last time we spoke, which was at an exhibition of photographs taken by the legendary George Kalinsky at the New York Historical Society two years ago.

Rest in peace, commissioner.

Following last Thursday’s press conference in which the Mets introduced relief pitcher Dellin Betances, I asked his agent, Jim Murray, whether he and his client had discussed the Mets’ disastrous bullpen last summer and if it presented an employment opportunity for 2020. The former Bronx Bomber was recovering from shoulder surgery at the time.

Murray sternly replied, “My client was laser-focused on getting back on the mound for the Yankees!” He then paused three seconds and added, “And yes we did!” with a wry smile.

Now that the real reason for Yoenis Cespedes breaking his ankles at his ranch last May has been revealed, Boar’s Head deli meats must offer him a deal to become their spokesman.

Rival hockey teams will be playing at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. No, it’s not the Rangers and Flyers, but the Harvard Crimson and the Yale Bulldogs. Expect a lot of boldfaced names from all walks of life to show up. Former presidential candidate and Secretary of State John Kerry has been a regular at this event.

Brazilian Jaoa Ricardo Vieira won the Professional Bull Riders initial event of 2020, the Monster Buck Off, held at Madison Square Garden this past weekend. American Jess Lockwood, who was the 2019 PBR champion and has quickly become the face of the sport, finished third.

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