Today is David Stern‘s last as the comissioner of the NBA. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver will take the reins starting next week, but in the mean time, lets take a look back at all that Stern has accomplished during his record 30-year run as the captain of the NBA ship. There aren’t many people that could have done such an amazing job promoting the NBA, and fewer still that could have survived and mollified the occasional hiccups that come while running a professional sports league over the last three decades.
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He might not have been the most likable or most entertaining figure in sports, but what David Stern has done for the NBA and the game of basketball should not be understated. In the 30 years since taking the role of NBA Commissioner from Larry O’Brien, David Stern has decided to finally call it quits and is leaving behind a great legacy while gracefully exiting the game of basketball on good terms.
Under his regime, he has overseen Michael Jordan‘s turn as a worldwide icon, Magic Johnson‘s leadership role in promoting in H.I.V awareness, and Stern is leaving the game when the NBA is a globally recognized sport. After a terrible drug era in the 1970’s, Stern cleaned up the game and instituted the league’s first drug testing policy.
In his first year as commissioner, he brought the salary cap to a place where every team is now guaranteed an equal opportunity to pursue high-profile players. He taught basketball players the business aspect of the game, and gave them the voice to negotiate contracts and become successful not just at home, but abroad in an increasingly global market. We now see players such as Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant as superstars, not just in America, but on the other side of the globe and seemingly everywhere in-between.
Stern changed the culture for basketball players around the world, and planted the NBA seed for new international roots in a a predominately African-American league (92 foreign players were on a NBA roster at the start of the season, a new NBA record). He also was a part of creating the Basketball without Borders program that reached four continents: Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. The mission was to promote outreach and teach the game of basketball through education and community programs. Stern made sure the sport would compete in a national/global television market and the game is now one of the most watched sports in the world with over 200 different countries tuning in to catch all the action.
His legacy in the community should be deeply appreciated. He was a Santa Claus figure for young kids, especially the ones from the inner-city, who dreamed of one day walking across the stage of the NBA Draft for the opportunity to shake his hand. The NBA Cares program focuses on a lot of tumultuous inner-city issues like education and health and fitness in the community; it’s been one of the crowning achievements in the legacy David Stern leaves behind.