David J. Stern: In Memoriam
When a titan passes, a true force to be reckoned with, it must be recognized, even if you’re 5’6” as David Stern was. But Stern’s height was merely a funny detail during his 30-year tenure as NBA Commissioner. Because in the sport of giants, Stern stood head and shoulders above everyone.
When David Stern began his 30-year run as NBA Commissioner, the league was at a crossroads. Nobody wanted to talk about it, but the league was close to bankruptcy. Through his ingenuity and business savvy, not only did Stern rescue the league from financial ruin, but his decisions turned the league into a financial powerhouse.
Some cynical fans remember the bad moments where there were league lockouts because Stern couldn’t agree with the players association (he presided over three such lockouts), but they can’t dwell on those when you realize that there wouldn’t be an NBA as it is today without Stern.
By getting networks to televise games nationally and bringing NBA basketball to foreign countries, David Stern broadened the reach of the game, something we’re now enjoying in full force thanks to the influx of top-notch foreign talent (e.g. Giannis Antetokoumpo, Luka Doncic, etc.).
But there was another side to David Stern that many fans didn’t realize until after he stepped down in 2014 and made way for current NBA commissioner Adam Silver: how nice of a person he was. After he left, instead of hearing stories of how people hated how he imposed a dress code and was responsible for the aforementioned lockouts, fans heard firsthand accounts of how genuine and funny David Stern truly was.
Countless current and former players, coaches and team executives shared stories about their interactions with Stern and how he always focused on making sure that the other person’s needs were being met. Also, his sense of humor was top-notch, as evidenced by his performance at the 2013 NBA Draft.
But I have another impression of David Stern: a personal one. I knew him simply as David and he was one of the kindest, most insightful people I’ve ever known. The career advice that he gave to me over the years was invaluable, but it was the kindness that he showed to me and my family that I’ll always remember. Needless to say, my experience with him was vastly different than the majority of players and fans, because I knew David as a person, and I’ll miss the kind man that he was.
Not only does David Stern leave behind a legacy as perhaps the greatest sports commissioner ever, but he will also be remembered as one of the most significant business minds of the 20th and 21st Centuries. So, to say he’ll simply be missed is a massive understatement.