Legendary NBA Commissioner David Stern dies at 77 years old
Simply put, today’s NBA as we know it would not exist without Commissioner Emeritus David Stern, who died on January 1, 2020, after being hospitalized since December 17 with a brain hemorrhage.
We remember the distinguished life and career of former commissioner David Stern. pic.twitter.com/sA7urzRkR8
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 1, 2020
From his focus on the epic rivalry between Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers and Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and its ability to captivate a nation, to his ardent advocacy for the global expansion of the game, Stern’s legacy is as lasting as it is expansive. He was named the NBA’s fourth commissioner in 1983, succeeding Larry O’Brien (after whom the association’s championship trophy is named) in 1984. That same year, a young guard out of the University of North Carolina named Michael Jordan joined the league, and the rest was history.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 1, 2020
Or it could have been, anyway. Surely, Jordan’s ascension took the NBA to lofty heights, as Stern guided the league through its explosion of popularity. Yet Stern never rested on his laurels, and he certainly refused to allow the league to do the same.
I was an intern at the NBA in the summer of 2003. The morning of that famous draft was the intern breakfast with the commissioner in the NY office. David Stern asked us "what do we sell?" – no one had the right answer. He told us "the NBA sells entertainment."
— Noah Coslov (@NoahCoslov) January 1, 2020
The likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James grew into worldwide icons of the highest order in the post-Jordan era, then Stern helped open the NBA’s doors to new audiences with the arrival of Yao Ming to the Houston Rockets. And as the Internet matured and transformed the wider entertainment landscape, Stern and the NBA made the prudent choice not to crack down on piracy of highlights, turning the league into an undeniable social media behemoth.
Full statement from the league office on the passing of David Stern … pic.twitter.com/c0aqapqsLL
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 1, 2020
Stern announced his retirement on October 25, 2012, stepping down on February 1, 2014, as Adam Silver took the reins. Stern never really left the basketball ecosystem, however. From time to time, a reporter would ask for his thoughts on topics like sports betting, the future of the in-game fan experience, or player usage of marijuana, and he’d happily oblige with his opinion. For if there was one thing Stern was not, it was shy.
His passing was met with an outpouring of support from the NBA and sports community befitting a legend of his stature:
I can not put into words what the friendship of David Stern has meant to me but many others. He changed so many lives. David was a great innovator and made the game we love what it is today. This is a horrible loss. Our hearts are with Dianne & their family. RIP my friend. @NBA pic.twitter.com/mbnneqm18s
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) January 1, 2020
Prayers going out to family & friends of former NBA Commissioner David Stern. May he RIP. 🙏🏽
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) January 1, 2020
RIP Mr David Stern
The best commissioner to ever do it. pic.twitter.com/SgO0hMX3Ia
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 1, 2020
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!
— Richard Jefferson (@Rjeff24) January 1, 2020
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. pic.twitter.com/FzlJwnJmrK
— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) January 1, 2020
Steve Kerr on the legacy of Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. pic.twitter.com/kUWpEbfBr2
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 1, 2020
Today the #NBAFamily lost a legend, a leader that changed our game for the better. A father, a husband, a friend.
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) January 1, 2020
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman statement after the passing of NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. pic.twitter.com/NM2bXz0tJa
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 1, 2020
Writers, journalists, and others also shared their best Stern stories after the news broke:
Saying goodbye to Stern: A phone call I'll never forget, and the plane ride that will never be, at @TheAthletic
(Story unlocked for non-subscribers)https://t.co/silkG0BdIg
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 1, 2020
. @mcuban and I were discussing David Stern just a few days ago.
Cuban: "He would tell me, up until the last time I saw him last year, ‘You know, I made you.’
"I’m like, ‘You absolutely did. No one knew who I was until you started fining me and I started raising hell.' "
— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) January 1, 2020
We’ve lost an icon in David Stern. Will never forget those nights hosting the draft. If I was late getting to his announcement of the next pick and he was standing at the podium waiting then he would wait on the next pick and make me tap dance. You didn’t mess with the commish
— Ernie Johnson (@TurnerSportsEJ) January 1, 2020
To My Pen Pal, David Stern, Whom I’ll Miss Greatly https://t.co/qWGgTNbQYR
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 1, 2020
I am truly saddened to hear that David Stern has died. He helped transform a sleeping giant of a sport into a global force. Even better, he was an anti-stuffed shirt commissioner, a guy you could joke and have fun with.
— Bob Ryan (@GlobeBobRyan) January 1, 2020
My favorite memory of David Stern was when he didn’t like my reporting — especially how much I wrote about the league’s failed basketball. So he sent the ball to me and signed it: “Didn’t know what to do with this discontinued model, so I autographed it and sent it to you.” pic.twitter.com/PmSoNXMfvS
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 1, 2020
Stern will undoubtedly be missed, but we will leave you as we think he would have wanted: with a compilation of all of the boos he received — and all of the joy he had in relishing the heckling — in his final NBA Draft in 2013. Rest in peace, David Stern.