A Tribute to David Stern
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New Year’s Day is generally happy and joyful. But this year, basketball fans all around the world were saddened to hear about the passing of former NBA commissioner David Stern, who had served for 30 years from 1984 to 2014 before dying at the age of 77.
Though he wouldn’t admit it, Stern made an undeniably huge impact on the league in his 30-year tenure as the league commissioner. He stepped into the position when the NBA was in its toughest period to date—people were losing interest and basketball seemed to be a dying sport. Stern began by making TV deals that allowed channels to feature highlights and games on television. He pushed the Olympics Committee to include NBA players, which sparked the Dream Team, one of the most entertaining teams of all time that garnered immense viewership and interest. Stern even used the 1992 Dream Team, which featured NBA legends such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley, to calm the panic over HIV after Johnson announced he was diagnosed with the virus. Stern invited Johnson to join the team for the 1992 All-Star game, during which Johnson hit the game-winning shot.
Stern spearheaded the globalization of basketball, which is now played by hundreds of millions of people internationally. The NBA quickly became one of the top leagues in the world, and the revenue from TV deals skyrocketed. Stern was open to accepting international players and set up games in Asia, Europe, and South America, further expanding the reach of the sport.
While the NBA empire was expanding, seven franchises were added to the league and several were relocated. Stern assisted in the creation of the NBA Development League, now called the G League, in 2001. The NBA Development League created more opportunities for rising players to pursue a career in basketball, which improved the overall caliber of the NBA. Stern also aided in the development of the WNBA in 1996. His contributions received backlash at the time, but Stern carried through with them and encouraged girls to pursue professional basketball. In an attempt to fix the financial instability that hindered the NBA then, Stern instituted a salary cap. This salary cap doubled during his tenure, matching the NBA’s growth in value.
One of Stern’s biggest and most controversial contributions was his enforcement of an age limit. He implemented a rule before the 2006 draft that banned players from being drafted straight out of high school and mandated that they play at least one year in college. Though this was criticized at the time, this rule has had a great impact on the NBA. Players now come into the league as more seasoned players and with better education.
Stern is recognized for having forever changed the league. He was honored with a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014 in recognition of his determination and achievements within the NBA. The NBA wouldn’t be in its glory today without Stern’s marketing strategies and visions for the league.