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Getting to Know Former NBA Commissioner David Stern

FAST FACTS

Name: David Joel Stern

Born: September 22, 1942 in New York City, New York

Died: January 1, 2020 (aged 77) in New York City, New York

Alma mater: Rutgers University (BA) Columbia University (JD)

Profession: Businessman/lawyer

Commissioner of the National Basketball Association: 1984-2014

 

David Stern joined the NBA as general counsel in 1978, became executive vice president in 1980 and was named commissioner in 1984, beginning a 30-year run in charge of the league until 2014 when Adam Silver took over. Stern’s arrival coincided with the prime of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the drafting of Michael Jordan, and the rise of ESPN. Stern leveraged all of it, understanding that it wasn’t teams or leagues that propelled a sport, but personalities. He encouraged spectacle (the lottery broadcast), myth-building (All-Star Weekend) and, above all, stars. By the end of the 80s, the league was thriving: stars sold shoes, appeared in movies and became cultural icons. Everyone wanted to be like Mike. Under Stern, the NBA would play nearly 150 international games and be televised in more than 200 countries and territories, and in more than 40 languages, and the NBA Finals and All-Star weekend would grow into international spectacles. The 2010 All-Star game drew more than 108,000 fans to Dallas Cowboys Stadium, a record to watch a basketball game. Stern oversaw the NBA’s growth into a league whose games were televised in more than 40 languages in more than 200 countries and territories. The league added seven franchises and launched the WNBA and the NBA Development League, now called the G League. He oversaw two work stoppages, which resulted in the 1998-99 and 2011-12 seasons being shortened to 50 and 66 games, respectively. In 2005-06, he instituted a dress code policy for players before and after games that former 76ers star Allen Iverson said targeted “guys who dress like me — guys who dress hip-hop.” His foundation was worth about $135 million and gave away about $2.1 million over the past year, according to Inside Philanthropy. Jewish causes include the UJA-Federation of New York, Scarsdale Synagogue, Westchester Jewish Community Center and Anti-Defamation League. Stern is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. The Teaneck, New Jersey, native lived in suburban Scarsdale, New York, with his wife; they have two sons. His wife and family were at his bedside when he died.