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Former NBA commissioner David Stern passes away


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The world of basketball is at a loss today as it mourns the death of NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern, three weeks after suffering a sudden brain hemorrhage in New York.

Val Ackerman, the Commissioner of the Big East, stated the following on the passing of Stern:

“This is a moment of profound grief in the sports industry and the basketball world as we mourn a titan, an innovator, a perfectionist, a taskmaster, a role model, a mentor and, most of all, a dear friend.  David Stern revolutionized what it means to be a sports league — and a sports leader — in an age that demands global awareness, technological savvy and a grasp of social currents in all their forms.  We will sorely miss his boundless energy, his unquenchable intellectual curiosity, and his irrepressible habits of asking hard questions, never backing down and always speaking his mind. Those of us who have given our lives to the game of basketball owe it to David for taking the sport to heights Dr. Naismith never could have imagined.  He was a commissioner’s commissioner, and it was an honor beyond words to work at his side and to learn continuously from him for three unforgettable decades. The BIG EAST Conference extends its deepest condolences to Dianne, Andrew and Eric and everyone in the extended Stern and Bock families during this immensely sad time.”

– Val Ackerman, Big East Commissioner

Stern, 77, had been involved with the NBA long before he became commissioner in 1984. Between 1966 and 1978, he served as a member of the Proskauer, Rose, Goetz and Mendelsohn law firm, the law firm that represented the league. It was Stern who helped negotiate the contract that saw the ABA and NBA merge together (bringing in the now Brooklyn (then New York) Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs). In 1978, he joined the league’s general counsel and two years later became the executive vice president.

In 1984, Stern was appointed as commissioner in a time where the league was nowhere near the juggernaut it is today. At the time, Major League Baseball, National Football League and even the National Hockey League were more popular than the NBA, who were dealing with some image issues. His appointment happened to coincide with the 1984 draft, which saw Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and possibly the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan, enter the league. That, along with the budding rivalry between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, helped spur viewership.

During Stern’s 30 years as commissioner, he not only grew the NBA from obscurity to the second-most popular worldwide sport but he also helped the push to bring women’s basketball to the forefront of sports. On April 24, 1996, the NBA announced the founding of the WNBA, which started play in 1997. In the 22 years since its beginning, many of the best players across the globe have graced a WNBA uniform.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert, who recently finished her first season on the job, thanked Stern for his tireless efforts to grow the women’s game.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern,” Englebert said in a statement. “The WNBA will be forever grateful for his exemplary leadership and vision that led to the founding of our league.  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.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who served as Stern’s deputy commissioner from 2006 to 2014, shared his thoughts in a statement about the man who he considered a mentor and close friend.

“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.  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.”

David Stern truly was a man whose vision crafted the golden era of basketball. And for that, he will live on as one of the true legends of the basketball world.

Chris Bullock
Chris Bullock
Before joining The Ball Out, Chris Bullock was part of SB Nation's Swish Appeal for nearly three years, covering everything women's basketball. Chris has had the honor of doing live coverage of the WNBA Finals, the NCAA Tournament, and also was given his own column, "The Triple Double". A self-described "foodaholic", Chris lives in the San Diego area with his wife and two daughters, and also hosts his own podcast, "Conscious Cravings", where he speaks about his experience as a mental health advocate.

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