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Believe it or not, it was a simple letter that brought Adam Silver from legal affairs to the eventual leadership of one of the world's most successful sporting empires.
Silver, who worked as a litigation associate at New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore wrote a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern in early 1992 for advice and soon received an invitation to meet the renowned NBA boss, who had also been a lawyer, in Stern's office.
"I remember I was so nervous that the room felt even hotter than this room today," Silver recalled on a warm Friday in Shanghai.
"I put my hands on the table and I was nervous that he might see how much I was sweating. I was pretty intimidated meeting him."
That tryst turned out to be the genesis of more than 20-year symbiotic relationship between them as Stern offered Silver a job as his special assistant.
Frequently appearing at Stern's side, Silver became involved in every aspect of the business operations at a time of great expansion while also building a strong relationship with the league's longest-serving commissioner.
Stern's trust in Silver became evident when former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik retired in 2006. Stern tapped Silver to step into the role and then announced Silver would take over as commissioner last year.
The US media describes Silver as quite different from Stern. Whereas the commissioner can be argumentative and aggressive, Silver seems dispassionate and more calm.
"He was very direct, very smart and very thoughtful," Silver said of his first impressions of Stern.
Self-proclaimed as a collaborative, hard-working and loyal man, Silver played a pivotal role in helping the two sides reach agreement when Stern and union leader Billy Hunter couldn't come to terms during the testy labor negotiations of 2011.
Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the NBA Players Association, said in a Wall Street Journal story last October that, "Silver is a much calmer presence than David".
However, their passion for work has forged a common bond between Sliver and Stern.
Living in an apartment near the NBA's head office on Fifth Avenue in New York, Silver is famous for working long hours, just as the energetic Stern still does.
"I am fortunate that I have a job that blends into my personal time as well," he said. "The NBA is very much a family environment - we all tend to work and socialize together. Some of my best friends are my colleagues."
Still, his dedication has meant less time for a personal life.
"Hopefully not forever, but I am still single," said Silver, who has four siblings.
Growing up north of New York in wealthy Westchester County, Silver was a Knicks fan and enjoyed running, tennis and golf.
"He is a very good athlete. Every time we have events like bowling or tennis, he is always good," said Heidi Ueberroth, president of NBA International.
(China Daily 03/28/2013 page22)