David Stern, the long-time NBA Commissioner passed away today after suffering a brain hemorrhage three weeks ago. Stern’s tenure as commissioner lasted from 1984 – 2014 and saw the NBA grow exponentially, as well as internationally.
Before becoming the commissioner of the NBA, Stern worked in different capacities for the league. He was an integral part of the NBA/ABA merger in the 1970s. In 1980 Stern was named the Executive Vice President of the NBA under then-commissioner Larry O’Brien. In this capacity, Stern helped the NBA and the Players’ Association agree on two big issues of the day, drug testing and instituting a salary cap.
When Stern took over in 1984 the rookie class included Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton, four players who would be key figures during Stern’s tenure. In 1985 Stern was involved in the first of many controversies. The NBA changed to a lottery system to decide the draft order and many believe the league fixed the lottery so Georgetown center Patrick Ewing would be in New York, a big market.
Stern is also credited with the league becoming a global force. He had exhibition games played all across the globe to help add fans as well as having teams do a better job of recruiting international players. From his early years with European players like Vlade Divac, Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc to more recent times with Yao Ming from China, Omri Casspi from Israel and Manu Ginobili from Argentina, the NBA is truly a global sport.
He also did a few things to show appreciation for the history of the league. The NBA Finals Trophy was renamed the Larry O’Brien Trophy to honor Stern’s predecessor and the NBA Finals MVP Trophy was renamed the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award to honor Russell, an 11-time NBA Champion. It is only a matter of time until current NBA commissioner Adam Silver honors Stern in a similar manner.
May all those who cared for Stern find comfort in an appropriate time.