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Media Meltdowns

Adam Silver Can’t Resist Praising Henry Kissinger On ‘The Pat McAfee Show’

4:24 PM EST on December 6, 2023

NBA commissioner Adam Silver should be riding high right now. The new in-season tournament has been a success, his league is full of marketable stars, and he's not Roger Goodell. But during his appearance on Wednesday's edition of The Pat McAfee Show, Silver collected an uncontested rebound and windmilled it into his own basket.

The two men had just wound down an innocuous discussion about the NBA's rising international popularity. Silver reached back to praise James Naismith and his Christian missionary work for spreading the gospel of hoops. McAfee brought up a viral video of monks playing basketball. "Some of those monks were a problem," the former punter said. That's where the conversation was, spiritually, before Silver traced the link between himself and the prolific war criminal Henry Kissinger.

"Do you feel an obligation to like, be a part of international relations?" McAfee asked. "Are you a part of that? Do you get pulled into those types of conversations?" There are a number of ways to wriggle out of this incredibly vague question, but Silver, perhaps emboldened by McAfee's bare-armed mien, went off book.

A transcript of Silver's answer, with acknowledgement of some relevant McAfee emotes:

I get pulled in, though not always in a positive way. I will say, I was reading a lot of those long obituaries around Henry Kissinger's death at 100. He was sort of an exemplar of one of the great global diplomats. And I want to say, I understand, this is going to be maybe far afield of your question [Ed. note: Correct], I of course believe we have to have a strong military, I'm a big believer in it. At the same time, call it soft power, or call it diplomacy—through sport [McAfee growling "Yes"], through culture, through arts, it brings connectivity [McAfee vigorously enmeshing his fingers] together with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Basketball is one of those sports.

You know again, as an athlete, I think what connects you to people, by virtue of your career in the NFL, talking about sports, but then using that as a platform just as we are now, to talk about other things. I'm a sports executive, I'm not a diplomat, but I think the things that we do around the world, our participating in these national games, Olympic Games, by taking our games globally, by bringing international players to the United States, by showcasing the very best, by people seeing our values of this game, around the world, these principles—I call it, like, "the rule of law."

It's interesting, the World Cup of soccer was in Qatar, 200 countries participating, everyone accepted those were the rules. Whatever was going on in those countries, whatever autocrat or dictator, whoever was running those countries, everyone accepted on that pitch, on that soccer field, when the ref made the decision, they may disagree with it, but those are the rules, and then a winner was declared at the end of the tournament. [McAfee's gaze has gone glassy] And that's sort of—sports teaches those values. And just lastly, this is an issue in the United States but really for the whole world: Even though we're seeing more prosperity in many places, you're continuing to see issues around childhood obesity, diabetes, and in many cases because kids aren't active. [McAfee nodding back to life, waggling his hand]

Credit to McAfee in this one and only instance: The atmosphere of his show is loose enough to get the NBA commissioner to explore the studio space, scatting about the "rule of law" and riffing on the geopolitical benefits of the Qatar World Cup. The only thing missing from this split-screen masterpiece is the smooth, beluga-like anti-expressions of A.J. Hawk.

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