David Stern’s Legacy: NBA Wouldn’t Be the Same Without Former NBA Commissioner

On Wednesday, a new year and decade started. The NBA opened 2020 in a bad way. Former NBA commissioner David Stern passed away on Wednesday at the age of 77 due to a brain hemorrhage.

Current and former players and NBA teams and fans have paid tribute to Stern on social media. But how will Stern be remembered? What will his legacy be? Let’s take a look at David Stern’s legacy.

Stern became the commissioner of the NBA in 1984. He would be the NBA’s commissioner for the next 30 years, retiring in 2014 with Adam Silver taking his place. When Stern took over, the NBA was struggling. There were financial problems and the league wasn’t having any success. Stern would build the NBA into the empire it is today during his 30 years as commissioner.


One of Stern’s accomplishments was making the NBA grow. Under Stern, seven teams joined the NBA and six relocated. He helped create the NBA Development League, now known as the G-Leauge. He also helped create the WNBA, allowing women to play basketball professionally.

Perhaps Stern’s biggest accomplishment when it comes to growth is the Dream Team from the 1992 Olympics. The Dream Team helped the NBA grow and be followed internationally. Players like Kristaps Porzingis wouldn’t be in the NBA if it weren’t for the Dream Team.

Marketing and Players

Stern figured out what would sell tickets and get people to watch games on TV. He realized that the players, not the teams, would do just that. So, he put all the marketing efforts into star players like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. The marketing of big stars like Jordan helped the NBA grow domestically and internationally.

LeBron James paid tribute to Stern on Instagram.

Salary Cap and More

In 1983, as Executive Vice President of the NBA, Stern helped in getting the league to agree to revenue sharing. That agreement led to the creation of the salary cap. Stern also helped increase the league’s television revenue. Under his tenure, the league’s television revenue would increase from $10 million per year to about $900 million per year.

Stern also helped create the league’s drug-testing program and the dress code.

However, not everything went smoothly during his tenure. There were labor disputes and four lockouts during his time as commissioner. Despite that, Stern built the NBA into an empire and it wouldn’t be what it is today without him.

“Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today. He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before,” Michael Jordan said in a statement. “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. I offer my deepest sympathies to Dianne and his family.”

It is hard to say what the NBA would be like today if David Stern hadn’t done what he had done. There might not even be an NBA today. Stern’s legacy was growing and building the NBA into the successful empire that might not exist today without him.



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