You might be looking at this old 1983 image and wondering who this ‘mustache’ man is? Well, that’s David Stern. The former commissioner of the NBA, and one of the most transformative and essential people in its history. Stern, unfortunately, passed away on Wednesday, three weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage in New York at the age of 77.
Stern had been involved with the league in some capacity for over 40 years. He started with the NBA in 1966 as an outside counsel, joined the NBA in 1978 as general counsel, and helped create the first salary cap in the history of North American sports. Stern was then officially named commissioner of the NBA on Feb. 1, 1984. He replaced Larry O’Brien, whom he would one day name the league’s championship trophy after.
In 1985, he instituted a draft lottery that gave every non-playoff team an equal chance at the No. 1 pick and resolved the ‘tanking’ issue. In 1990, David knew that maximizing the league’s television presence was a priority in its growth and created its first television partner with NBC. Then, after some wild suspensions and bad behavior from the players, Stern created the 2005 players’ dress code, to encourage professionalism to the game. Instead of fighting the law, the players ultimately embraced it by making fashion a core element of their brands. There was the 2011 Chris Paul veto and the massive $250,000 fine in 2012 aimed at the San Antonio Spurs for load-management. But Stern officially handed the reins over to Adam Silver on Jan. 31, 2014. His tenure lasted precisely 30 years, making him the longest-reigning commissioner in the history of American sports.
With his guiding hand, he turned the league into a financial juggernaut that it is today. The association has been exported around the globe and then back again. The current MVP is a Greek-born to Nigerian immigrants and its champion, a Canadian team with contributors from three continents. All-in-all, David understood that the NBA was a player’s first league, and he never lost sight of that.
Catch you Monday.