David Stern dies in New York, the man who turned the NBA into a global competition

David Stern dies in New York, the man who turned the NBA into a global competition
David Stern led the NBA for thirty years. (EFE)

Stern ruled the league between 1984 and 2014 and made it the most globalized competition in the world. On December 12 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage

David Stern, commissioner of the NBA from 1984 to 2014, died Wednesday in New York (United States) because of a cerebral hemorrhage he suffered last December 12. His figure is essential to understand the current state of the league. He was to blame for its modernization until it became a competition followed throughout the world. He took advantage of the brightness of players like Magic Johson, Larry Bird or Michael Jordan and knew how to identify the appetite for them outside the United States.

Stern suffered a Hemorrhagic stroke while eating in a New York restaurant and was taken to a hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery and was admitted since then. Days later, the league issued a statement explaining that he was still in serious condition. And this Wednesday has confirmed his death.

“For 22 years, I had a courtside seat at the edge of the field to see David in action. He was a mentor and one of my best friends”, said Adam Silver, his deputy in the office of commissioner. “We spent countless hours in the office, in stadiums and on airplanes, wherever the sport takes us. Like all NBA legends, David had extraordinary talents, but with him, it was mostly about the fundamental things: preparation, attention to detail and hard work”.

Without it the growth of the NBA is not understood. Stern is one of the most important people in league history. This New York lawyer arrived at the position of commissioner in 1984 after 18 years working for the NBA, first in the office that represented the competition and then with charge in it. In 1980 he was appointed executive vice president and four years later he replaced Larry O’Brien, the commissioner who gives name to the title of champion.

Stern was very clear that the future of the NBA was to expand its presence abroad. Already in 1984, shortly after arriving at the position of commissioner, he declared in a friendly tournament in Italy that it was possible for the future to play regular-season games outside the United States, something that happened for the first time in 1990 with two matches in Japan. Two years later, the presence of the ‘Dream Team’ at the Olympic Games in Barcelona was another milestone in the expansion of the league. Later, especially since the arrival of Yao Ming in the NBA in 2002, the ‘boom’ of the league began in China, which is currently its largest market outside the United States.

Until he left office after 30 years and was replaced by Silver in 2014, Stern led the NBA with an iron hand. He always said that he did what his bosses, the franchise owners, sent him, but the truth is that he held much of the power. During his 40 years at the head of the NBA there were four ‘lockouts’, the last in 2011. In the early 80s, the league was not even televised live, a situation that began to change with the rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics and stars like Michael Jordan. Now the NBA enters billions of euros for broadcast rights.

He also had his controversies. In 2005, he introduced a dress code to end the gangsta style, as it relieved many black players. That same year, the new collective agreement agreed with the players included the age limit of 19, which has since prevented younger players from entering the league, as did LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, to name just two examples.