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Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And to hear the podcast version of the show, subscribe on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. And now we hear from one of our regular contributors, Paul Kotz, who gives a tribute to his father and a brief history of American author Jack Kerouac. Here's Paul. I was listening to an interview on the radio discussing the need for the presence of fathers and dads in kids' lives. I think back to my own dad, who taught me many aspects of navigating life's daily concerns, shared his own anecdotes of wisdom and challenged me to be better. If he heard someone else tell him I was a good man or that I possessed a certain trait, he would often tell me, as one example, so-and-so told me you're a very fine teacher.
Well, direct praise was not as common in my own childhood at home until I later became a man and my father was facing his own death due to a prolonged illness. At the time in the late 90s, I asked for some feedback on an incomplete dissertation dealing with learning styles and aptitude. He said, you write like Jack Kerouac. On the road, one of Kerouac's finest works possessed this kind of spontaneity that was valued by many. Kerouac is generally considered to be the father of the beat movement, although he actively disliked such labels. Kerouac's method was heavily influenced by the prolific explosion of jazz, especially the bebop genre established by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and others. Later, Kerouac introduced ideas he developed from his Buddhist studies that began with Gary Schneider. He often referred to his style as spontaneous prose. Although Kerouac's prose was spontaneous and purportedly without edits, he primarily wrote autobiographical novels based upon actual events from his life and the people with whom he interacted. Interestingly enough, Kerouac spoke French with his family and began learning English at school around age six.
He began speaking it confidently in his late teens. He was a serious child who was devoted to his mother, who played an important role in his life. She was a devout Catholic who instilled this deep faith in both of her sons. He later said she was the only woman he ever loved.
After his brother died, his mother sought solace in her faith while his father abandoned it. Much could be said about Kerouac's upbringing and life exploits, but I was focused on my own writing and trying to finish this work where I had been stuck in a holding pattern. At the time, I did not know who Kerouac was.
I had to look him up because it was a comment that came from my dad, and I wanted to know the significance of this pronouncement. Kerouac, as mentioned before, is recognized for his style of spontaneous prose and, like all of us, had his fans and attractors. You would have appealed to the Beat Generation, my dad said. I was kind of worried because at the time I was stuck in my writing and did not think I would ever finish. Some believed that at times that Kerouac's writing style did not produce lively or energetic prose.
The famous Truman Capote said of it, That's not writing, it's typing. Yet according to Carolyn Cassidy and others, he constantly rewrote and revised his work. At the time of my father's comments, I was encouraged because as I learned more about Kerouac, he had an attraction to the writing of Joyce.
This was often overlooked by scholars of prose. Kerouac alludes to his Joyce's work more than any other author. Also, Kerouac had high esteem for Joyce and he often used his stream of consciousness technique. I appreciated experimenting with this language too. But in this case, my discussions with my dad, I was trying to finish this dissertation where a stream of consciousness wasn't highly valued, but the ability to make statements supported by varied literature and where a clear methodology in your work is quintessential. It had a style of its own. I was grateful for this time and advice with my dad.
Connected with this idea was this elimination of the period, substituting instead a long connecting dash. As such, the phrases occurring between dashes might resemble improvisational jazz licks, and when spoken, the words take on a certain musical rhythm and tempo. Well, in writing this piece, I return back to reflection of the influence my dad's comments had on me. My dad wasn't very generous in praise, but he was there in the background and could be a presence when I needed that extra push and the moment was right. Was my writing like improvisational jazz licks?
Did they have a musical rhythm and tempo like many thought of Kerouac? Dad may not have been the one to go to all your games or events, see when you did something well or frequently comment on it, but when he did, it made an impact. I'm indebted for this.
He passed away in April of 2000 and I still miss him. The words my dad had for me had an influence. At the time, I had to delve into Kerouac to bring to life my dad's comments, which seemed incomplete and asking for untapping what he fully meant.
I may never know the true extent. And by the way, not many people think of term papers and dissertations as spaces for spontaneity, but the dad's suggestion, the dad's prodding, moving his son forward and along his own path. All cuts his story and tribute to his father and to one of his favorite American authors here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country, stories from our big cities and small towns.
But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories dot com and click the donate button. Give a little, give a lot.
Go to our American stories dot com and give. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. If you're eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHC Medicare health plans dot com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes. Just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.
Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we return to our American stories. Founded in 1946, we consider the National Basketball Association or the NBA to be a cultural icon, but it certainly didn't start off that way. And it took the hiring of a man named Larry O'Brien to get it on the path to being a serious organization. Here with the story of the rise of the NBA as a business is Pete Croato, author of From Hangtime to Primetime.
Take it away, Pete. The NBA in its early days, in the 1940s, 1950s, was really a regional league. It was a league whose teams were based in the Midwest and the East Coast.
The furthest team West was St. Louis. So it really was a regional league and it was a league that really struggled for mainstream acceptance. For years, it had trouble getting a favorable national television contract. For years, it played in arenas that really were antiquated or run down.
Nowhere close to the entertainment meccas that we see today. It really was a second tier professional league. Baseball had always been America's game.
Its roots were established for years and years and years. And the NFL had gained a foothold with television thanks to the 1958 NFL championship game, which was the league's first overtime game. The NBA didn't really have anything like that. It was really an afterthought to college basketball, which was huge in the 1950s, and even to the Harlem Globetrotters.
In fact, NBA games typically were the previews or the first act, so to speak, to Harlem Globetrotters games, to college basketball games, especially in New York City. And if you read player autobiographies or player biographies from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, a lot of these players had second jobs. They had other business interests. They were making exorbitant salaries. So now, if you sign a professional contract as a highly-tited rookie with any of the four major sports, you're pretty much set for life.
Back then, that wasn't the case. So the NBA in the 1940s, 50s, even into the 1960s was a league that was looking for relevance. It was looking for a foothold into America's sporting culture. The NBA needed to make a leap to become legitimate, and by putting Larry O'Brien in that position, it is the first step towards saying, hey, we're a business.
We mean business. Larry O'Brien was a major fixture in Democratic national politics. He was somebody who, as time goes on, I think we've forgotten just what a political figure he was in the 1950s into the early 1970s.
But Larry O'Brien was part of JFK's Irish mafia. He basically helped JFK get to the White House. He was on the plane coming back from Dallas after JFK was assassinated. After that, he was a member of Lyndon B. Johnson's cabinet. He was Postmaster General. And then after that, he was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee for two terms.
He was on the cover of Time magazine, so he was somebody who was a major, major figure in national politics. But Larry O'Brien, by the time the mid-1970s rolled around, he had become a relic. He's retired for the most part.
He is somebody who is really looking for something to do. And when J. Walter Kennedy decides that he's had enough being the NBA's commissioner, he looks to Larry O'Brien. He reaches out to Larry O'Brien specifically to ask him to take over. And Larry O'Brien says no.
Because here's the thing. Now, when someone is elected to be the commissioner of a sports league, that is a career pinnacle. For Roger Goodell at the NFL, for Rob Manfred at Major League Baseball, Gary Bettman at the NHL, that is a pinnacle.
When you die, they lead your obituary with the fact that you were the commissioner of the NHL or Major League Baseball. For Larry O'Brien, this was a step down. So the NBA really courted him because, for two reasons. First, they knew that he was a basketball fan because he was someone who grew up watching the Celtics.
He had season tickets to the Knicks. But Larry O'Brien was also somebody who was going to give the league instant credibility. And the NBA ultimately won Larry O'Brien over after numerous attempts because they convinced him, look, you'll have absolute power here. This isn't going to be a real figurehead position. You'll actually be able to do things here. You'll be able to make decisions and carry out policy.
You'll have impact. And his election as commissioner, his hiring as commissioner, was significant for two reasons. First, he gives the NBA, as I mentioned before, instant credibility. This is a league that was really struggling for national relevance.
It was struggling to become a player. And Larry O'Brien gave the NBA cachet. It was headline news that he was the NBA commissioner. It made people take notice.
So there's that. And the second thing is that he brings order to the NBA. The heads of the NBA before Larry O'Brien, Maurice Podoloff and J. Walter Kennedy, they came of age with the NBA. They were ingrained in the NBA.
They didn't have outside influence. And Larry O'Brien came in and he was not associated with the NBA. He didn't have allegiances. He was somebody who just wanted what was best for the NBA. So he came in with no biases. He was his own man.
And he also had the ability, the ability to manage. Larry O'Brien ran the best meetings. And that may not sound like much, but you have to understand that meetings before, in the 50s and 60s, were contentious, bickering affairs, kind of like a Thanksgiving dinner with different political opinions being bandied back and forth. So Larry O'Brien coming in and just saying, look, this is what we're doing.
We're just going to get down to brass tacks. It doesn't sound like much, but for a league that couldn't get out of its own way, it was huge. This really comes across in the NBA's absorption of the ABA, the American Basketball Association, because Larry O'Brien, you know, just wanted to get the deal done.
And when the two leagues were meeting to try and figure out how to, what teams to absorb and what money should change hands, you know, the meetings are going on and on in 1976. And in the closing days, Larry O'Brien just says to the owners, look, up or down, meaning we could stay here and bicker about these contracts, or you can take the money, get into a plane, cash your checks, and make a small fortune before the day's ends. And for the ABA, which had a lot of bankrupt owners and financially struggling owners, Larry O'Brien was able to just distill their problem into a simple question, up or down. And that's what the NBA needed. The NBA needed someone to just get down to the brass tacks of running a business.
But one of his greatest gifts wasn't so much policy he enacted or edicts that he handed down, though he did his fair share. What Larry O'Brien did was he recognized talent and he could delegate. And one thing that he did is that he hired a young lawyer who was outside counsel for the NBA named David Stern, and he bought him in as his second in command. And David Stern later went on to become the MA commissioner and, in my mind, is the most influential sports commissioner of the last 50 years. So Larry O'Brien's ability to recognize David Stern as somebody who could do the dirty work, who could get to know the GMs and the team owners and the union representatives, having David Stern clear a path and basically get a five-year start to become the commissioner of the NBA, that was Larry O'Brien's greatest legacy. And I think that's why he is one of the most overlooked figures in the rise of the NBA. And we're listening to Pete Croato telling the story of the NBA.
And what's so interesting about this take is he's looking at it from a business angle. No business of sports. No sports. No business of entertainment.
No entertainment. In the 40s and 50s, well, the league didn't extend past St. Louis. Good luck with the TV contract. In the old days, NBA players had summer jobs. And then comes Larry O'Brien. And then comes David Stern, his second in command.
When we come back, more of the remarkable story of the NBA with Pete Croato, author of From Hangtime to Primetime, here on Our American Story. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare.
Helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.
And I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try All-Free Clear Mega Packs. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients, compared to a regular pack, so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes, and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs. Which, my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation, or you get the kids back from summer camp, or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that All-Free Clear Mega Packs, they have your back.
Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we return to our American stories and the story of the NBA. When we last left off, NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien had hired a young lawyer by the name of David Stern to be his second in command, and Stern himself would soon take over Larry's job, changing the NBA forever.
Here again is Pete Croato. Larry Obama was one of those bosses where he came in at 9 o'clock, he went to his office, shut the door, and you saw him at 5 o'clock. David Stern was everywhere. He was at the arenas, he was talking to the GMs, he was talking to the press, he was talking to the networks that aired NBA games. So every week, David Stern would go on a conference call with the broadcast crew at USA Network, the cable station that aired NBA games. And there's one meeting where David Stern says, look guys, focus on the stars. Don't worry about the records, don't worry about who's winning or who's losing, focus on the stars.
If it's a terrible matchup, let's say the Clippers are playing the Celtics, let's say, focus on John Havlicek, focus on Dave Cowens, they're folks that people know. And that to me was David Stern's genius, was that he was able to recognize that to generate interest, he had to identify ways for Joe and Jane Public to watch a basketball game beyond two minutes. And that was with stars, that was with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and Julius Erving.
Focus on them, and that star system is what sustained the NBA and what sustains it to this day. That is David Stern's baby, and it comes about in a number of ways. First is the establishment of NBA Entertainment, which is what David Stern creates. So NBA Entertainment becomes this sort of archive of game footage and player interviews, and all this material gets culled into halftime features and advertisements that extol the best and brightest of the NBA. Later on, NBA Entertainment takes all this footage that they've stored from games and whatnot, and they turn that into videos highlighting players.
So you have a Michael Jordan video cassette, you have a Magic Johnson video cassette, you have a Larry Bird video cassette. David Stern partners with the television station, specifically with CBS, and comes up with a game plan. Each game was going to have at least two players.
Because that's who the casual fans wanted to see, they wanted to see stars. So you have NBA Entertainment, you have the television coverage, and you also have NBA Properties, which, again, is a David Stern-led development, which focuses on apparel that focuses on players, players' faces, what they do. So, you know, it's not just getting a 76ers T-shirt, it's getting a Julius Erving T-shirt, it's getting a Charles Barkley T-shirt, it's getting a Magic Johnson hat or a Magic Johnson sweatshirt.
So it is a multi-pronged attack that David Stern leads, and it all comes down to the players. Because, think of it this way, kids, I think, get their sports teams from their parents, right? Or from their grandparents or from their family or from allegiances in town. If you are somebody who's getting into the NBA as a lone wolf, like I was, I had parents who were not particularly, not really sports fans.
You know, my parents didn't know what hand a baseball club went on. You're going to gravitate toward players, then go toward a team. And if you know the players through commercials, if you highlight their best attributes, like Magic Johnson's smile or Larry Bird's competitiveness, you are going to win people over. And it also helps if you work with a television network like CBS and CBS Sports that knows how to frame the games as television dramas. When you have Magic versus Larry, you're not just focusing on these two great players, you're focusing on the two sterling franchises of the NBA and the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.
You're focusing on East versus West, and you're turning all those components into a narrative that anybody can get behind. So the NBA Finals, any NBA game, isn't just a sporting event. It becomes an episode of television, where the same way that if you watch a television pilot, you get the characters, you get the storyline, and you get a happy ending or an ending, the same thing happens with NBA games on CBS.
You get a beginning, middle, and end. You get a flashy introduction. You're caught up to speed with where things are, and then you get a game that is filmed, almost like a movie, with quick cuts and close-ups and reaction shots. You get personality into the game, and that personality bleeds through every product, whether it's a VHS tape, whether it's a T-shirt, it doesn't matter what it is. Because as David Stern said, it's not what people think about you, it's how they feel about you. That is the mantra of the NBA.
It is an emotional league. And that is the lifeline for the NBA's story for its success over the past 35, 40 years. But Marvin Gaye's national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, I mean, is a pivotal point in the NBA's history, because that's when the NBA became the world's cool sport. You have to remember that for the longest time, the national anthem was performed in a very straight-ahead fashion.
But Marvin Gaye's national anthem comes at the right time. It's when hip-hop is making its way into the American culture, and it's also a major cultural figure in Marvin Gaye, who is Motown and sexual healing, singing the song, and it's also the sign that the NBA wasn't going to play by the rules of the NFL, of Major League Baseball, it was going to do its own thing. Because here was an unabashedly African-American version of that song that reflected who was on the court, you had a majority of African-American players playing, but it also represented what you saw on the court in terms of style of play.
That national anthem, if anyone hasn't heard it, is a soulful, stirring rendition that incorporates R&B, gospel, he's singing it over a pre-recorded beat. It reflected what the NBA was and what it could be. It was a cool sport. It wasn't a sport for your mom and your dad and your grandma and your grandpa. It was a sport that was for the cool kids at the table, for the teenagers, for the young Americans who wanted something different, that wanted something that was hip, that belonged to them. And that national anthem set the stage for everything that happened afterward in the NBA's cultural history, because it was defiantly non-traditional, but in a way that was entertaining and fun and exciting and different.
And for any young sports fan growing up in that era and afterward, that's what the NBA represented when you first saw a basketball game. It represented something different. The players looked different. They carried themselves in a different way. The game was filmed differently. The players did things differently.
They talked differently. That anthem also changed the way the NBA organized its All-Star game. It became more than just East versus West, your best versus my best. It also became, what can we do to give the audience the best time possible? So Marvin Gaye, in a lot of ways, launched a business revolution. And you've been listening to Pete Croato tell a heck of a story about the NBA, and we're huge Hoops fans in my house. Heck, when I was a kid, I did Bobby Knight's camp, captain of my high school basketball team twice. And to hear this story told so well by someone like Pete, well, it brings back a lot of memories.
When we come back, more of Pete Croato on the story of not only Larry O'Brien, but how David Stern helped turn the NBA into the cool game, the cool thing in American culture. It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives.
I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try All-Free Clear Mega Packs. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All-Free Clear Mega Packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that All-Free Clear Mega Packs, they have your back.
Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we return to Our American Stories and the final segment on the rise of the National Basketball Association. When we last left off, Pete Croato, author of From Hangtime to Primetime, was telling us about how David Stern, Marvin Gaye, the television drama of the NBA, and its superstar players launched it into the success it is today. The NBA was at a high point and they were about to partner with a growing cultural force that would take them even higher.
Here again is Pete Croato. The NBA really started to become a mainstream force in 1979 with the arrival of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. 1979 is also the year that rapper's delight hits the airwaves. Hip-hop, rap, and the overall culture is a youth culture.
It was especially a youth culture in the 1980s into the early 1990s. The NBA has always been about doing what's new, what's relevant. The NBA's tradition is that it has no tradition.
So partnering hip-hop with the NBA, or rather the NBA partnering with hip-hop, was really a no-brainer. Hip-hop has a youthful audience that has money to spend and wants something that's new. Doesn't want the same old thing. They don't want to listen to Mick Jagger or The Rolling Stones. They don't want to hear stories about Mickey Mantle and Jim Brown.
They want what's new. The NBA's partnership with hip-hop was a match made in heaven. It's also not surprising because hip-hop really started as a byproduct of city culture. Basketball is very much a city game.
It did take place in gymnasiums, obviously, and it did take place in the suburbs. But basketball's biggest influence is in the cities. You don't need much room to put up a basketball court.
You don't need much room to put up even a hoop. The game really was a way for city kids to assimilate into American culture, especially Jews and African Americans. So it may seem odd or unusual that the NBA would partner with hip-hop, but really it's not. As the NBA is becoming a youthful hip league that's going mainstream thanks to stars like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, hip-hop is enjoying the same renaissance. MTV starts playing rap videos. Rap starts to mimic pop songs with choruses and hooks and also incorporating elements of rock music. For example, Walk This Way, You've Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party. Those songs have hooks that a young fan can get into even if they don't like rap.
And it's different. It's the new rock and roll. And that's appealing to kids. And also, you have artists that now are really more like entertainers coming to the forefront. You have Will Smith, you have MC Hammer, you have God Help Us Vanilla Ice.
They all kind of come into that era. So as the NBA became mainstream, hip-hop became mainstream. That also generates a line of culture and a line of clothing that, specifically sneakers, that hooks not only a young audience but the players. So it is a natural marriage of the two. The two go hand in hand, even to this day. And all the forces aligned with Michael Jordan and with Nike and with the market.
And here's why. For a number of years, the NBA stars were always quote-unquote model citizens such as Julius Erving. They can package as team-oriented stars such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, part of a rivalry.
Or they were just boring. So Michael Jordan comes along with a shoe that is quote-unquote banned by the NBA. It doesn't look like any shoe you've ever seen.
It's got white and black and red. It is completely foreign. And then you have Michael Jordan, who embodies the spirit of that shoe because he is a soloist. He is not part of a team. He's not established. He is brand new.
He is marketed as a rebel. By going over players, by putting the ball in the hoop in ways that many people have not seen. And he can play. He's an extraordinary player. And he is somebody that looks good on camera. He's extremely attractive.
He's a manageable height at 6'6". He is a matinee idol for basketball. So all those things come together and turn this shoe into a cultural force. It's not just a shoe.
You are buying the 1980s version of the leather jacket or the Davy Crockett hat. And when it's embraced by not only basketball fans but by hip-hop artists, by city kids, by whomever. And when clothing comes out to match the shoes, the cat's out of the bag. So Michael Jordan really represents the beginning of the sneaker clothing fashion trend in popular culture, I think. Because he was somebody who you could represent, who you could aspire to be, just by wearing his shoe.
And if you're a teenager and you want to be rebellious, it's very easy to chalk up $65 or $100 or $150 to become rebellious, to become part of a movement. Especially when that movement is represented by somebody who is as magnetic, who is as brilliant a player as Michael Jordan is. It's a very easy association to make.
And it persists. So if you want to be like Steph Curry or Kevin Durant or God forbid, Kyrie Irving, buying their shoe, buying their pal, is a way to get closer to them. And Michael Jordan is the start of that. The NBA now is a global business. I mean, it is worth billions and billions of dollars. And it has thousands of employees across the globe. It is constantly trying to sow its seeds of development in different areas of the world. I mean, I think Africa is now the latest continent to come under the NBA's purview.
So it is just now this behemoth. And the NBA is part of our life, whether we're online or watching it on TV. I think most people know who LeBron James is, they know who Kevin Durant is.
They're cultural institutions. I think we forget that the NBA wasn't always like this. The NBA wasn't always a colossus, an international colossus. What's amazing to me is that the NBA we see today came about because of the efforts of people who love basketball, who just love the NBA and love what it could be. These are people that just work tirelessly to elevate a game that they loved and were passionate about. David Stern, Larry O'Brien, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan. But the NBA's rise is the result of so many people that have fallen into the cracks of history. Men and women like Paul Gilbert, Ed Desser, Bill Fickett, Ted Shaker and Arlene Weltman. These men and women who worked tirelessly and sacrificed and sometimes embarrassed themselves to turn the NBA into a part of our lives. Their efforts have been forgotten. And it's a crying shame.
The NBA's rise to success didn't come about because of Michael Jordan, David Stern, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It's a story of dozens and dozens of people working together to create what we see today. And a great job on the production by Monty Montgomery and a special thanks to author Pete Corrado.
His book, From Hang Time to Prime Time, is available on Amazon and the usual suspects. And what a story it tells. And it starts early. Baseball was America's pastime, football second by the late 50s. But it took Larry O'Brien, David Stern and a bunch of others to put the NBA on the map. And indeed, it took some great players, too. Bird and Magic also combining with rap music in this remarkable, remarkable merger of cultural forces, the partnership between the two, a match made in heaven, as Pete said. Then came Jordan, Nike and the market.
Let's face it. Jordan was a matinee idol, a master salesman and a virtuoso performer. And the NBA turned into a pop culture force. Indeed, my own daughter, Reagan, for Christmas wanted the Nike Blue North Carolina Air Jordans, proving that he still and the NBA is still a cultural force. The story of the NBA here on Our American Story. .
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