David Stern, the former NBA Commissioner, has died. He was 77.
Stern passed away on Wednesday, three weeks after he underwent emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage that he suffered last month.
The current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the devastating news in a statement on Twitter, revealing that Stern died surrounded by his wife Dianne and their family, and went on to highlight the NBA legend’s successful career.
“For 22 years, I had a courtside seat to watch David in action. 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,” Silver wrote. “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 a 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,” Silver went on. “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,” he finished. “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.”
The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) also released a statement on Stern’s passing, calling his impact on the game and business as a whole “immeasurable.”
“The entire basketball community is heartbroken. David Stern earned and deserved inclusion in our land of giants,” the NBPA spokesperson wrote. “His impact on our game and our business is immeasurable and the rewards we reap will continue to be appreciated by the NBA players and their families for generations.”
“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,” they added.
Stern was the NBA’s longest-serving commissioner, having succeeded Larry O’Brien’s position at the league in 1984.
He announced his retirement in 2012 and formally stepped down from his role two years later, after serving as commissioner of the NBA for a total of 30 years. Stern was then replaced by his deputy commissioner, Silver.
Stern was a polarizing figure during his tenure. However, one of his biggest accomplishments was aiding the creation of the 1992 Olympic men’s basketball team — affectionately dubbed the “Dream Team” — consisting of basketball legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen.
The American Olympic team became the first to feature active professional players from the NBA. They won a gold medal during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
During his tenure, Stern also saw the relocation of six NBA franchises and the creation of seven new NBA teams. He represented franchise governors through four NBA lockouts, as well as implemented a mandatory dress code for players. He also oversaw the creation of the WNBA and the NBA’s G League.
In 2014, Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Following the news of Stern’s death, many NBA players tweeted their condolences and fond memories with the former commissioner.
Magic Johnson — who also played in the 1992 Dream Team — tweeted his thoughts for the sports legend in a lengthy thread.
“Cookie and I are devastated to hear about the passing of my longtime friend and former NBA Commissioner David Stern. A great man, husband, father, friend, businessman, and visionary, I loved and respected him,” he wrote.
“For 30 years as NBA Commissioner, David grew the NBA to become one of the most popular leagues in the world with his revolutionary ideas. He took the NBA Finals from tape delay to live games & then began every Sunday on CBS highlighting Larry Bird’s Celtics & my Showtime Lakers,” Johnson continued.
“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. 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,” he went on.
“I remember one of my meetings with David in his NYC office working with him to improve the overall NBA and All Star Weekend. It was very special that he asked me and we were able to collaborate and make improvements,” Johnson added. “Cookie and I are praying for the Stern family, his lovely wife Dianne and sons Eric and Andrew. May God comfort you during this time. Our hearts go out to you!”
Six-time NBA champion Pippen, 54, also tweeted in honor of Stern, calling the news a “very sad day for basketball.”
“We saw David Stern a lot in the 90s and I found him to be kind, thoughtful and almost always the smartest person in the room. He was an innovator who helped grow our sport into a global game and his impact will never be forgotten. RIP, Commissioner,” he wrote.
Dwyane Wade shared a photo of Stern and wrote beside the shot: “RIP David Stern! Shaking your hand on June, 26, 2003 was a dream come true”
Former Nets player Richard Jefferson added in his own tweet, “The two most important people in the history of the game of basketball are Dr James Naismith and DAVID STERN. One man created the game and the other made it what it is today. RIP David, so many owe you so much!”