SBNation is doing a themed day centered around outgoing commissioner David Stern. Here is our entry.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase "David Stern hates the Celtics." Granted, every time I've heard that it was from a Celtics fan who was upset about something that the league said or did.
Personally I've never been much of one for conspiracy theories. I generally trust people in the NBA front offices to do what's in the best interest of basketball. In fact, it seems to me that if anything there would be an inherent incentive to help one of the league's most storied franchises in one of the largest markets. Especially when the Celtics were so critical to the league's turnaround and rise in popularity in the 80's.
With that said, there's certainly a history that the team has had with the outgoing commissioner. Rich Levine does an excellent job cataloging several incidents at the below link. The one that bothers me the most is this one.
As everyone knows, Stern and the NBA infamously refused to provide the Celtics with cap relief after the death of Reggie Lewis. That decision stunted Boston’s growth in the following years and no doubt contributed to team falling into the abyss. To make matters worse, the season after the decision on Lewis, the league passed a new rule saying that if another situation like that ever arises, a team gets half of that player's salary taken off the cap. The Celtics were obviously furious with Stern and the league, and that fury boiled over in March of 1995, when the commissioner attended Reggie Lewis Night at the Garden.
Red apparently confronted Stern in the way that only Red can and you can only imagine how that went down. Levine makes the point that the other owners are more directly to blame, but I agree that Stern could have exercised his influence to do the right thing in this situation and simply didn't for whatever reason.
So did Stern actually have a personal dislike for the Boston Celtics and did it spill over into his dealings with the team? I guess we won't know unless Stern comes clean years from now. Considering that he's a guy that "knows were the bodies are buried" i wouldn't exactly hold my breath.