David Stern, who was commissioner of the NBA for three decades, died on Jan. 1, the professional basketball league announced.
Stern, 77, died on Wednesday afternoon as a result of a brain hemorrhage he suffered about three weeks ago, the league said. Stern’s wife, Dianne, and other family members were with him when he passed away.
“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,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
“Like every NBA legend, David had extraordinary talents, but with him it was always about the fundamentals—preparation, attention to detail, and hard work.”
— NBA (@NBA) January 1, 2020
Stern took over the league in 1984 and oversaw major growth of the league, particularly on the international level.
“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,” Silver said. “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.”
Former NBA star Richard Jefferson was among those reacting to the death, writing in a statement: “The two most important people in the history of the game of basketball are Dr James Naismith and DAVID STERN. One man created the game and the other made it what it is today. RIP David, so many owe you so much!”
The two most important people in the history of the game of basketball are Dr James Naismith and DAVID STERN. One man created the game and the other made it what it is today. RIP David, so many owe you so much!
— Richard Jefferson (@Rjeff24) January 1, 2020
Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat legend, added: “RIP David Stern! Shaking your hand on June, 26, 2003 was a dream come true.”
After retiring in 2014, Stern went on to get involved with sports technology startups, he told The Undefeated last year.
“I’m involved with many sports technology startups, which is a great deal of fun, and about the game, about televising the game, and about player health. That’s a very important issue for me. Imagine if we could extend the career of every player by a year. That would be great for the players, priceless for the league,” Stern said at the time.
“And I think that technologically speaking, NBA games are going to stream, they’re going to use virtual reality, they can use artificial intelligence, they’re going to use wearable technology. It’s going to be really interesting, and so that’s the way I stay involved.”
Stern said he had “no regrets” about his tenure as NBA commissioner.
“I am so happy because when I took over the NBA, our players’ reputations were, I would say, in the basement of the pyramid of celebrity. And now they’re at the tippy-tip of the celebrity pyramid. They’re the most listened to, the most beloved, in some ways, and the most important athletes in all of sports,” he said.