David Stern dies at 77

Former NBA commissioner David Stern has died. He was 77.

David Stern died as a result of the brain hemorrhage he suffered approximately three weeks ago.

Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver remembered Stern as a mentor, a dear friend and “one of the most influential business leaders of his generation.” In a statement Silver also said:

“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.”

Legal background

David Stern graduated from Columbia Law School and became a skilled negotiator working in the litigation department of law firm Proskauer Rose. In 1966 he began to work as an outside counsel for cases involving the NBA.
Stern became the organization’s first general counsel in 1978 and was later promoted to executive vice president in charge of legal and business affairs before becoming the fourth NBA commissioner, replacing Larry O’Brien.

NBA was a mess

When Stern took his post as commissioner in 1984, television revenues were low and several franchises were in financial turmoil. But he quickly rolled up his sleeves and got to work. Over the next 30 years until his retirement in 2014, the player’s salary cap grew from $3.6 million to just under $59 million, according to Forbes. While television revenues jumped from around $22 million to about $930 million, and franchise values from $400 million in 1984 to $19 billion when Stern retired, the magazine reported.

David Stern made it a global game

The league took off globally under Stern’s tenure, becoming the first professional sports league to play regular-season games outside the US. Then NBA players were allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time with Stern’s blessing. In 1992, the “Dream Team” — comprising a coterie of NBA legends, including Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, and Michael Jordan — claimed to the gold medal.

Marketing the superstars

Another big part of Stern’s strategy was marketing the league’s superstars and making them global icons. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird leading the charge in the ’80s, then Jordan in the ’90s and extending well into the 2000s with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

In the years since he passed the reigns over to now-NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Stern became a senior adviser for the NBA, venture capital firm Greycroft Partners and investment bank PJT Partners, among other accomplishments. David Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2014 and the International Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

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