David Stern, who masterminded the NBA's growth into a global sports powerhouse while serving as commissioner from 1984 to 2014, died yesterday after suffering a brain hemorrhage last month. He was 77.
The NBA, whose championship games were not televised live in the United States when Stern's 30-year tenure began, announced his passing, which came with his family at his bedside.
Stern, who underwent emergency surgery after he was stricken December 12, built the league into a global sporting empire by the time he retired on February 1, 2014, and passed leadership to current commissioner Adam Silver.
"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," Silver said in a statement.
"RIP Mr David Stern the best commissioner to ever do it," tweeted retired NBA star Shaquille O'Neal.
The NBA has annual revenues of $8 billion, Forbes magazine estimated last February, with the Knicks valued at $4 billion, the average club worth $1.9 billion and the average player earning an annual $7 million salary.
Seven teams were added during Stern's 30-year tenure. Six clubs relocated to new cities.
"His legacy will live on not only in what he did for the league but in what he did for the players," former NBA star Chris webber said.
The NBA featured 108 players born outside of the United States from 38 nations when the 2019-20 campaign tipped off last October. There had only been 24 international players on opening night in 1994.
Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece is the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player. Slovenian Luka Doncic was last year's NBA Rookie of the Year. Frenchman Rudy Gobert was last season's NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Cameroon's Pascal Siakam was the NBA's Most Improved Player.
Asked his greatest accomplishment in 2014 at his final news conference as commissioner before passing on the mantle to Silver, Stern couldn't find an answer.
"I don't have a good answer for that question," he said. "I've been knocking myself out for 30 years, and we've had some good successes, we've had some difficulties.
"If you just look to what the modern NBA has become, my greatest accomplishment was in hiring the now 1,200 people that used to be 24 that have taken the league to where it is and... where it's going, which is higher yet."
Stern promoted NBA stars over such epic clubs as the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
Marketing by the league and its sponsors turned star players into single-name celebrities - Bird, Magic, Jordan, Pippen, Kobe, Shaq.
Stern was a visionary and innovator, imposing a dress code to boost player images with an eye to marketing and creating the NBA Draft Lottery, so the worst clubs didn't automatically receive the first chance at new talent, concerned about the integrity of games even for league doormats.*AFP
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