CHICAGO -- On the eve of the 69th NBA All-Star Game, commissioner Adam Silver felt it was important to recognize the founder of All-Star weekend.
Silver served for many years as the deputy commissioner to the late David Stern and considers the late commissioner emeritus a mentor. Stern died on New Year's Day following a brain aneurysm.
"He was a force of nature for all of those who knew him," Silver said. "A transformational figure."
This weekend is a prolonged celebration of basketball life with tributes to Kobe Bryant and Stern front and center. The All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player trophy was renamed Saturday as the Kobe Bryant MVP Award.
"No one embodies All-Star more than Kobe Bryant," Silver said.
Bryant was an 18-time All-Star who won the showcase's MVP award a record-tying four times.
Silver said he has been struck recently by the similarities between the two league icons.
"They could be difficult at times because they prioritized winning," Silver said. "They didn't have a lot of time for some of the niceties in personal interaction. ... As the father of a child, that is the unimaginable.
"This generation of players, so many of them look up to (Bryant) as a role model. The belief in winning, that extra drive and inner beast he called it."
While not as visible this week, Michael Jordan's impact on the game, league and city has been a constant undertone during the festivities. He also has ties to the previous All-Star Weekend in Chicago in 1988. Jordan won the Slam Dunk Contest and scored 40 points to earn MVP honors in the game.
Ever since, the league wanted the game to return.
Silver said he convinced Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, with an assist from his son Michael Reinsdorf, to bring the game back this year.
"I remember Michael Jordan taking off from the line in that dunk contest," said Silver, who was a law student back in 1988 when he scored tickets to the All-Star Game in Chicago.
But this weekend remains as much a memorial as anything.
Silver clarified that the NBA was in contact indirectly with Bryant's family and all teams with games on the schedule on the day of his death, Jan. 26, but opted not to cancel games not involving the Lakers while seeking further clarity under extraordinary circumstances.
"Chris Paul, the president of the players association, was one of the first people to call me. We talked about this sense of whether we should be canceling games on Sunday," Silver said. "More than anything there was this sense of everyone wanting to be together."
Silver said the NBA expects to return to CCTV, the primary broadcast outlet in China, but is not certain what the next step in the 40-year relationship with the country will advance beyond the acrimonious aftermath of Daryl Morey's comments in October.
The league lowered cap projections -- only slightly, Silver said -- based on the loss of revenue from China.
Discussions for USA Basketball playing a game in a China prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are ongoing, Silver said.
The NBA continues to push for the creation of an in-season tournament, but Silver allowed health and the concern about whether an 82-game schedule is appropriate are critical to advancing those talks.
--By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media