There are many strange connections in history and politics, but maybe none as strange as how an eventual NBA commissioner would play a role in bringing down a president. Before David Stern's monarchial grasp on the office there was Larry O'Brien. A Massachusetts native of Irish decent born in the birthplace of basketball, Springfield, Massachusetts.
Before he became the commissioner of the NBA, O'Brien had been one of the most successful political strategist in American politics. He had a natural talent for politics and got his very first campaigning job when he was 11 years old in 1928. O'Brien slowly moved through the ranks of the Democratic party until in 1952 a young Massachusetts war hero approached him about leading his campaign for Senator; that young mans name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
He would be elected chairman of the Democratic National Convention in 1970, and with that title he got a nice plush office in a quaint Washington hotel called the Watergate.
O'Brien did such a successful job on Kennedy's election campaign that in 1959, when the Senator was running for president, he asked O'Brien to be in charge of his election campaign. After Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election O'Brien became a special assistant to the president. While the title sounds sexy, the job was anything but. O'Brien ended up becoming more of a lobbyist than anything else. After Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, O'Brien stayed on the staff for the next president Lyndon B Johnson. In 1965 Johnson would appoint O'Brien the 57th Postmaster General of the United States. O'Brien would stay in the position until Johnson's presidency came to an end in 1968.|
Following his stint in the cabinet O'Brien would go back working for the Democratic National Committee. O'Brien would again work to try and elect a president for the Democratic party, only this time he'd find himself as a key player in one of the biggest scandal to ever hit American politics.
During the lead up to the 1972 presidential election there was a not of spying and mind games played by both sides. One of the games was to feed misinformation to Donald Nixon, brother of president Richard Nixon, and get Donald Nixon to give that misinformation to the president. One such bit of information regarded illicit business dealings between Richard Nixon and billionaire playboy Howard Hughes.
This misinformation was the basis for the paranoia that surrounded the Nixon Whitehouse at the time and eventually lead to associates of Richard Nixon's to get caught breaking into offices at the Watergate hotel. Many historical scholars have suggested that the ultimate goal of the break in was O'Brien's office.
The investigation which followed the break in would eventually unravel the entire presidency of Richard Nixon, forcing Nixon to become the only president in American history to re-sign the office. O'Brien has been the subject of many alternate and conspiracy theories through-out the years about what really happened with Watergate. Some have suggested that he may have known more than he let on, and may have actually leaked information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; but as to date no real evidence has ever been provided for any claim.
Following the scandal O'Brien took the job vacated by Walter Kennedy as commissioner of the NBA. O'Brien would serve as commissioner from 1975 until 1984. During his tenure the league saw many changes, most notably the merge with the American Basketball Association, and the first major TV contract.
O'Brien would die in 1990. O'Brien has the distinction of having two awards named after him. One of the most famous NBA awards is named after him, the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy which is given to the NBA champions and was named after O'Brien in 1984 after his retirement. In 1992 the Democratic National Convention named it's new service award the Lawrence O'Brien award. The DNC originally wanted to call the award the Larry O'Brien award but didn't want it to get confused with the Larry O'Brian Championship trophy.
1952-Committee to elect Senator Kennedy
1960-Committee to elect President Kennedy
1961-Special assistant to President Kennedy
1965-57th Postmaster General of the United States
1975-Commissioner of the National Basketball Association