David Stern, the former commissioner of the National Basketball Association died Wednesday, the NBA said. He was 77.
Stern died from a brain hemorrhage he suffered several weeks ago, according to the NBA. Stern suffered the brain hemorrhage December 12 while dining in a Manhattan restaurant. Stern is survived by his wife, Dianne, and their two sons, Eric and Andrew.
Stern became the fourth commissioner of the NBA on February 1, 1984. He previously served as the NBA’s general counsel from 1978 until 1980, and then as Executive Vice President of the NBA from 1980 until 1984. In 2012, Stern announced he would step down in February 2014, and tapped Adam Silver as his replacement. At the time of his retirement, Stern was the longest serving NBA commissioner, having held the position for exactly 30 years. After stepping down, Stern remained affiliated with the league with the title of commissioner emeritus, and has remained active in his other interests, such as sports technology.
“For 22 years, I had a courtside seat to watch David in action,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “He was a mentor and one of my dearest friends. 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.”
“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,” Silver added. “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.”
Even before assuming the role of commissioner, Stern’s impact on the league was considerable. While serving as Executive Vice President, Stern helped implement the league’s salary cap and drug testing policy for players.
As commissioner, Stern oversaw the considerable expansion of the league, which was airing games in over 200 countries by the time he stepped down. During Stern’s tenure, the NBA added seven new teams and saw six other teams relocate, including the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets, coincidentally, played their inaugural 1967 season in the American Basketball Association, which would merge with the NBA in 1976, in Stern’s hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey.
Stern was also instrumental in the creation of the WNBA, which was founded in 1996 and played its inaugural season in 1997.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “The WNBA will be forever grateful for for his exemplary leadership and and vision that led to the founding of our league. His steadfast commitment to to women’s sports was ahead of its time and has provided countless opportunities for women and young girls who aspire to play basketball. He will be missed.”
Stern graduated from Teaneck High School and went on to attend Rutgers University. After completing his undergraduate studies, Stern went on to Columbia Law School, graduating in 1966.