David Stern, the former NBA commissioner passed away at 77. Three weeks ago in early December 2019, he suffered from a brain hemorrhage that ultimately resulted in his death. Stern left behind quite the legacy that not only grew the NBA financially, but he also made it a global phenomenon. Twitter immediately showed support for his passing.
Stern began his involvement with the professional basketball league back in 1966, and retired from commissioner in 2014. Here’s a look of his 48 years with the league.
1966 – Outside counsel for the league
After attending Columbia University for his JD, he worked as outside counsel for NBA cases. He helped negotiate a settlement that allowed the NBA and ABA to merge.
1978 – Became first general counsel for the NBA
1980 – Promoted to Executive Vice President of legal and business affairs
During this time, Stern created the drug testing policy and team salary caps. In August 1980, reported that 40-75% of NBA players used cocaine, which led to the drug testing policy. The NBA was the first professional league in the country to implement such a policy. The salary cap gave players more power, as it made owners and players more of partners, and they received 53% of all revenues.
1984 – Took over as commissioner
Stern entered his new post with low TV revenues and with multiple teams financially struggling. According to Forbes, during his 30 years as commissioner, the salary cap grew from $3.6 million to $59 millions. TV revenues skyrocketed from $22 million to $930 million. And the teams financially struggling went from a value of $400 million to $19 billion.
1994 – Dreaming of international presence
Stern dreamed of the NBA playing regular international games. He allowed the first NBA players to play in the Olympics.
1980’s, 90’s, 2000’s – Global icons
Part of Stern’s marketing strategy was to create league superstars. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird claimed the fame in the 80’s, Jordan in the 90’s and 2000’s with Kobe and LeBron taking over most recently.
In 2014, Stern was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“The reason I am here is because of thousands of people over the years who have done so much,” Stern said during his induction speech. “You got to love the game, and everything that we do is always about the game.”