Wednesday afternoon, NBA Commissioner Emeritus David J. Stern passed away, approximately three weeks after suffering from a brain hemorrhage. He is survived by wife Diane and sons Andrew and Eric.
Stern took over the NBA on February 1, 1984, when the league was suffering from poor financial health, sub-par attendance at games, drug problems and non-existent television revenue, signified by the NBA Finals being broadcast on tape-delay after the late local news.
Since then, the NBA became a marketing force due to Stern’s efforts to leverage the league’s stars. Bird, Magic, Jordan, Iverson, Kobe, LeBron and others were not only basketball players, but global brands unto themselves as well as ambassadors that spread the game of worldwide.
“Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time, but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation,” said Adam Silver, who followed Stern as commissioner. “Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration.”
Stern was able to bring the sport to more than 200 countries during his 30 years of service as commissioner. The All-Star Game became appointment viewing for hoop heads worldwide, while the weekend grew into an annual homecoming of sorts that showed off the marriage between the NBA, its legends, its fans, the players and pop culture. The NBA Finals last year was broadcast in 40 different languages.
The NBA was the first league to take a public stance on drugs as well as institute a dress code on October 17, 2005 that was seen as racist and controversial at the time. However, since then, the dress code inspired the current generation of stars to bring their own style as they adapted to the new rule.
“I will never EVER forget when you called my name on stage and I shook your hand. My dream came true,” said LeBron James on Instagram. “Thank you for your commitment to the beautiful game of basketball that has changed so many young adult/kids lives and more importantly your vision to make our game become WORLDWIDE was a vision only you could make happen! You did just that. Making our game the greatest sport in the world! Was a honor to know you personally. Rest In Paradise David Stern! My prayers goes to your family and friends throughout this difficult time!”
During Stern’s tenure, seven new franchises were birthed, the WNBA was created, and the NBA’s Developmental League, now known as the G League, has allowed the growth of the game to be solidified by creating multiple pathways for individuals desiring a career in professional basketball.
“We have lost a father, Mentor, uncle and a great man. He will be missed by so many families and friends,” says Dikembe Mutombo on Instagram.
David Joel Stern was born Sept. 22, 1942, in New York. A graduate of Rutgers University and Columbia Law School, he was dedicated to public service, launching the NBA Cares program in 2005 that donated more than $100 million to charity in five years.