Michael Jordan and David Stern.
Michael Jordan and David Stern.

Jordan pays tribute after NBA legend’s death

DAVID Stern, the basketball-loving lawyer who oversaw the NBA's growth into a global powerhouse as its longest-serving commissioner, died aged 77 on Wednesday.

Stern, who took the NBA around the world during his quarter-century in the job, suffered a brain haemorrhage on December 12 and underwent emergency surgery.

The league said he died with his wife, Dianne, and their family at his bedside.

Stern had been involved with the NBA for nearly two decades before he became its fourth commissioner on February 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.

The game's greatest player, Michael Jordan, was among those to pay tribute.

"Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today," Jordan told The Athletic.

"He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before.

"His vision and leadership provided me with the global stage that allowed me to succeed. David had a deep love for the game of basketball and demanded excellence from those around him - and I admired him for that. I wouldn't be where I am without him."

Stern is credited with being a visionary.
Stern is credited with being a visionary.

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 had embraced made reading NBA.com easier than ever.

"For 22 years, I had a court-side seat to watch David in action," current commissioner Adam Silver said. "He was a mentor and one of my dearest friends …

"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."

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 US that previously weren't available.

David Stern with Stephen Curry at the 2009 NBA Draft. Picture: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
David Stern with Stephen Curry at the 2009 NBA Draft. Picture: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

He was fiercely protective of his players and referees when he felt they'd been unfairly criticised, such as when members of the Indiana Pacers brawled with Detroit fans in 2004, or when an FBI investigation in 2007 found that Tim Donaghy had bet on games he officiated, throwing the entire referee operations department into turmoil.

With his voice rising and spit flying, Stern would publicly rebuke media outlets, even individual writers, if he felt they had taken cheap shots.

"When you talk about the NBA family, David Stern is kind of the father of the family who really brought us all together and really had owners and players thinking as one to move the game forward," former NBA star Isiah Thomas said on NBA.com.

"Without his stubbornness, without his intellect, without his love and care, and sometimes disciplinarian hard hand, the league would not be where it's at today."

"He fought for the game of basketball," Grant Hill, another former star player and co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, said on NBA.com.

"He had a style about him, he had a passion, but he had a vision that this league could really transcend. It could reach all people. It could become a global game."

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said Stern was a "commanding leader".

"I remember the first time I went to the NBA head coaches' meetings; I didn't want to say a word," Spoelstra told CNBC. "He could really command a room, lead a room and explain his vision for the league so clearly and concisely that we all would walk out of that room understanding exactly the direction that we were supposed to go on behalf of the league.

"We're a leaving, breathing legacy of what he created in the last 20 to 30 years. It's really amazing."

 

News Corp Australia


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