David Stern, the former commissioner of the National Basketball Association who helped fuel the sport’s popularity in overseas markets and among women, has died.
Stern died as a result of a brain hemorrhage he suffered approximately three weeks ago. His death was announced by the NBA. His wife, Dianne, and their family were with him at his bedside, the NBA said.
“For 22 years, I had a courtside seat to watch David in action. He was a mentor and one of my dearest friends,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement Wednesday. “We spent countless hours in the office, at arenas and on planes wherever the game would take us. Like every NBA legend, David had extraordinary talents, but with him it was always about the fundamentals — preparation, attention to detail, and hard work.
“David took over the NBA in 1984 with the league at a crossroads. But over the course of 30 years as Commissioner, he ushered in the modern global NBA. He launched groundbreaking media and marketing partnerships, digital assets and social responsibility programs that have brought the game to billions of people around the world. 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.
“Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration. Our deepest condolences go out to David’s wife, Dianne, their sons, Andrew and Eric, and their extended family, and we share our grief with everyone whose life was touched by him.”
Stern became commissioner in 1984, a time when the game’s perception was waning in the mainstream. But the infusion of such new stars as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, mixed with Stern’s marketing savvy, helped lead the league to new heights. He presided over a league that added seven new teams and had six relocations, and helped in the creation of the WNBA, which began in 1997 and brought new fans to the sport. TV revenue grew close to a billion dollars under his watch from $10 million, and merchandise sales went through the roof. He ended his reign in 2014.
The Stern tenure wasn’t all smooth. He also oversaw four lockouts, including those in 1998 and 2011 that shortened the regular season. He was also controversial among Los Angeles Lakers fans, vetoing a trade that would have brought guard Chris Paul to the team.
David Joel Stern was born Sept. 22, 1942, in New York City. He graduated from Rutgers and then obtained a law degree from Columbia. His first actions involved negotiations that led to the NBA’s merger with the ABA and helped bring free agency to the league.
He joined the NBA as the league’s general counsel in 1978 and succeeded Larry O’Brien as commissioner in 1984. Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Survivors include his wife, Dianne; and a son, Eric. No memorial plans have been announced.