February 1 will mark the end of an era in the NBA, as David Stern steps down after serving as the commissioner of the league for over three decades. Stern’s tenure as commissioner began on February 1, 1984; 30 years to the day of his retirement. In the year Stern became commissioner, the league saw four future superstars drafted that would play a key role in globalizing the sport. These stars were Hakeem Olajuwon, John Stockton, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan.
Under David Stern’s reign, the NBA saw a massive increase in global popularity and revenue. When Stern began as commissioner 30 years ago, there were 23 teams in the NBA and they were all located within the United States. Stern leaves the NBA today with 30 teams in the league, including one north of the border in the Toronto Raptors. In 1984, the NBA product as a whole was worth $165 million. In 2014, the NBA is valued at a staggering $5.5 billion.
Stern’s influence in basketball is not only felt in North America, but also worldwide. In 1992, Stern played a key role in negotiating the plans to allow professional basketball players to participate in the Olympics. In Barcelona 1992, the Dream Team was born. NBA superstars Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan served as the faces of the NBA in the Olympics and thanks to Stern’s efforts the audience of the NBA spread throughout the world.
The NBA is now televised in 215 countries across the world, and it is broadcast in 47 different languages. The global expansion of the NBA also allowed the game itself to develop. With the international spread of professional basketball, more and more European players began entering the NBA, and as a result the style of the game began to progress. For example, it became more common to see big men playing around the perimeter and taking jump shots, such as Dirk Nowitzki. Other ways David Stern helped grow the NBA brand includes the introduction of the WNBA in 1997, and the creation of the NBA Development league in 2001.
Although Stern revolutionized the brand of basketball and spread it across the globe, it did not happen without a few bumps in the road. The NBA saw four work stoppages under the reign of David Stern, with the lockouts in 1999 and 2011 resulting in cancelled games and shortened seasons. In 2002, the Charlotte Hornets were moved to New Orleans, much to the chagrin of its fan base. Only eight years later the NBA was forced to buyout the Hornets franchise, which made way for the infamous trade that never was in 2011, which saw commissioner Stern veto a trade that would have sent all-star guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Paul eventually signed with the Lakers staples center roommates, the Los Angeles Clippers. And 2008 marked the end of an era in Seattle, as Stern was forced to move the Supersonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City. This was devastating to the loyal Seattle fan base and Seattleites are still sore about the topic to this day. However, as a result Oklahoma City has one of the best home arenas in the league and they will be contending for an NBA championship this season.
While some of Stern’s decisions may not have sat well with many fans across the league, overall he improved the competitiveness throughout the NBA with the implementations of new salary caps and luxury taxes. The NBA is where amazing happens because of the work of David Stern.
Adam Silver will have some big shoes to fill when he takes over as commissioner. The 51-year-old Silver was unanimously chosen by the NBA Board of Governors to serve as Stern’s replacement. Silver has been working in the NBA since 1992 and has served as NBA deputy commissioner chief operating officer (COO) and the right-hand man to Stern since 2006. Mark Tatum will serve as Silver’s deputy commissioner and COO.
A 71-year-old Stern is happy to be retiring and looking forward to the next chapter in his life. Perhaps with the departure of Stern we are seeing the end of an era where the commissioner is booed and heckled at each years NBA draft.
By Eric Kummel