Former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who is credited with dramatically overhauling and expanding the national sports league while serving as its longest-tenured commissioner, has died, according to the NBA. He was 77.
The renowned businessman had been hospitalized after suffering a brain hemorrhage on Dec. 12 that required emergency surgery, the NBA had said at the time.
Stern died on New Year’s Day as a result of the hemorrhage, according to a statement from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. His wife and family were with him when he died.
“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, crediting Stern with making the NBA a “truly global brand” and calling him one of the “most influential business leaders of his generation.”
Stern had served as commissioner of the multibillion-dollar sports operation for 30 years, succeeding Larry O’Brien in 1984. He handed the reins over to then-deputy commissioner Adam Silver in 2014.
During his three decades at the helm, he expanded the sport’s popularity and digital coverage ― with the NBA being the first major professional sports league to appear on cable TV ― as well as expanded the league internationally ― having introduced national players to international teams, and vice versa. He also allowed the first NBA players to participate in the Olympic Games in 1992, and the so-called “Dream Team” won the gold. He also oversaw the creation of the WNBA, the NBA’s women’s counterpart, in 1996.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which added his name to its walls in 2014, branded him as “one of the most influential commissioners in the NBA’s history.”
“Under Stern the NBA added seven new teams, and the relocation of six NBA franchises,” the sports memorial’s tribute to him reads. “The expansion of the global game was one of Stern’s greatest accomplishments during his tenure by opening 13 global NBA offices and staged regular season games outside the U.S. which was the first ever in professional sports.”
Despite stepping down as commissioner in 2014, Stern remained affiliated with the NBA as commissioner emeritus. He traveled overseas on the league’s behalf and did public speaking and consulting.
“David Stern is the single most important person in the history of basketball,” former NBA player and broadcaster Bill Walton said at the time of Stern’s resignation. “He has used basketball to make the world a better place. ... He is a master at getting to what’s next.”