For­mer NBA com­mish David Stern dies at 77

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Brian Ma­honey As­so­ci­ated Press

NEW YORK — David Stern had basketball as a pas­sion and law as a pro­fes­sion, one he fig­ured he could re­turn to if a job at the NBA didn’t work out.

He never did.

In­stead he went to Europe, Asia and plenty of other places around the world, bring­ing with him a league that was pre­vi­ously an af­ter­thought in the U.S. and turn­ing it into a global pow­er­house.

Stern, who spent 30 years as the NBA’S long­est-serv­ing com­mis­sioner and one of the best in sports his­tory, died Wed­nes­day. He was 77.

“With­out David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is to­day,” Hall of Famer Michael Jor­dan said. “He guided the league through tur­bu­lent times and grew the league into an in­ter­na­tional phe­nom­e­non, cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that few could have imag­ined be­fore.”

Stern suf­fered a brain hem­or­rhage on Dec. 12 and un­der­went emer­gency surgery. The league said he died with his wife, Dianne, and their fam­ily at his bed­side.

“The en­tire basketball com­mu­nity is heart­bro­ken,” the Na­tional Basketball Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion said.

“David Stern earned and de­served in­clu­sion in our land of gi­ants.”

Stern had been in­volved with the NBA for nearly two decades be­fore he be­came its fourth com­mis­sioner on Feb. 1, 1984. By the time he left his po­si­tion in 2014 — he wouldn’t say or let league staffers say “re­tire,” be­cause he never stopped work­ing — a league that fought for a foothold be­fore him had grown to a more than $5 bil­lion a year in­dus­try and made NBA basketball per­haps the world’s most pop­u­lar sport af­ter soc­cer.

“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,” said Adam Sil­ver, who fol­lowed Stern as com­mis­sioner. “Ev­ery mem­ber of the NBA fam­ily is the ben­e­fi­ciary of David’s vi­sion, gen­eros­ity and in­spi­ra­tion.”

Lak­ers for­ward Lebron James echoed Sil­ver.

“We lost a great vi­sion­ary,” James said. “Him and Dr. James Nai­smith are the two most im­por­tant peo­ple for the game of basketball. Dr. Nai­smith be­cause he in­vented the game and

David for his vi­sion, his vi­sion to make this game global.”

Thriv­ing on good de­bate in the board­room and good games in the arena, Stern would say one of his great­est achieve­ments was guid­ing a league of mostly black play­ers that was plagued by drug prob­lems in the 1970s to pop­u­lar­ity with main­stream Amer­ica.

He had a hand in nearly ev­ery ini­tia­tive to do that, from the drug test­ing pro­gram, to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the salary cap, to the cre­ation of a dress code.

But for Stern, it was al­ways about “the game,” and his morn­ing of­ten in­cluded read­ing about the pre­vi­ous night’s re­sults in the news­pa­per — even af­ter tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances he em­braced made read­ing eas­ier than ever.

“The game is what brought us here. It’s al­ways about the game and ev­ery­thing else we do is about mak­ing the stage or the pre­sen­ta­tion of the game even stronger, and the game it­self is in the best shape that it’s ever been in,” he said on the eve of the 2009-10 sea­son, call­ing it “a new golden age for the NBA.”

One that was largely cre­ated by Stern dur­ing a three-decade run that

turned count­less ballplay­ers into celebri­ties who were known around the globe by one name: Magic, Michael, Kobe, Lebron, just to name a few.

Stern over­saw the birth of seven new fran­chises and the cre­ation of the WNBA and NBA De­vel­op­ment League, now the G League, pro­vid­ing count­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to pur­sue ca­reers play­ing basketball in the United States that pre­vi­ously weren’t avail­able.

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