Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who is credited with evolving and globalizing the league into the global powerhouse it is today, died at the age of 77, the league officially announced on Wednesday.
Stern died as a result of the brain hemorrhage he suffered three weeks ago. Stern died with his wife, Dianne, and their family by his bedside, per the NBA.
“For 22 years, I had a courtside seat to watch David in action. He was a mentor and one of my dearest friends,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement (h/t ESPN). “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.
“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.
“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.”
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. The WNBA will be forever grateful for his exemplary leadership and vision that led to the founding of our league,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “His steadfast commitment 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.”
“Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today. He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before,” Charlotte Hornets owner and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan said in a statement. “His vision and leadership provided me with the global stage that allowed me to succeed. David had a deep love for the game of basketball and demanded excellence from those around him — and I admired him for that. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I offer my deepest sympathies to Dianne and his family.”
“The entire basketball community is heartbroken. David Stern earned and deserved inclusion in our land of giants. His impact on our game and our business is immeasurable and the rewards we reap will continue to be appreciated by NBA players and their families for generations,” the National Basketball Players Association said in a statement. “As tough an adversary as he was across the table, he never failed to recognize the value of our players and had the vision and courage to make them the focus of our league’s marketing efforts — building the NBA into the empire it is today. We owe him and we will miss him.”
David Stern was a brilliant leader whose vision was instrumental in creating the global success the NBA enjoys today,” ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “ESPN is deeply grateful for his tremendous partnership through the years. Our thoughts are with David’s loved ones, Commissioner Silver and the entire NBA family at this difficult time.”
“My wife Willow Bay & I are deeply saddened by the loss of David Stern, who left an indelible mark on the sports industry & helped turn the NBA into a global cultural force,” Bob Iger, Disney’s chairman/CEO, said via Twitter. “He was an integral part of our personal and professional lives. Our hearts are with his family & the NBA.”
“David Stern was such a history maker. When I announced in 1991 I had HIV, people thought they could get the virus from shaking my hand,” Magic Johnson said in a tweet. “When David allowed me to play in the 1992 All Star Game in Orlando and then play for the Olympic Dream Team, we were able to change the world.”
Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
“There are no words that can really describe the far-reaching impact of Commissioner Stern’s brilliance, vision, fairness and hard work over so many years,” Larry Bird said in a statement. “When you think of all that he accomplished worldwide on behalf of thousands of players, so many fans, all of the jobs he created for team and arena employees and all of the people that benefited from the many layers of growth in the sport and industry that David spearheaded and then passed on to others, there is no doubt Commissioner Stern lifted the NBA to new heights and he will be greatly missed by all of us.”