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David Stern’s legacy proves that there was always more to basketball

Former NBA Commissioner David Stern passed away Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.

Stern, the commissioner who engineered the complete transformation of the league and sports as a whole, leaves behind a legacy of innovation, wisdom, and abundant care for the community.

It cannot be overstated: The NBA would not be the multinational force and entertainment model it is today without Stern. Fans of the NBA and all those who reap the benefits the league produces owe great gratitude to Stern and his efforts.

When David Stern became NBA Commissioner, NBA Finals games aired on tape-delay. The majority of fans across the country were not able to see the teams they loved play the game. At the time, there was also a drug problem tainting the values of the league and threatening its very existence.

However, along with brilliant pioneers Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Stern was able to market the sport beyond what it once was. The jovial and charismatic black man in sunny Los Angeles versus the rugged and introverted white man in Boston made for a fantastic rivalry, and in the late-80’s, Johnson and Bird quite-literally saved the league.

Stern rightly saw the NBA as entertainment. It was and still is a league unlike any other.

In the NBA, players don’t have to protect their heads with helmets and shield their faces. In the NBA, five players touch the floor at a time, delivering one player the ability to impact the game in a way players in other sports just can’t.

Where the NFL is the sport of the shield, the NBA is the sport of the superstar. It is no mistake that NFL players take to Twitter to voice their regrets of choosing the wrong sport when they see an average NBA player secure a $200 million guaranteed contract.

The ingenious Stern saw the promise in the league in the 80s, and with Magic, Bird, and then Michael Jordan, Stern had all the firepower of superstars to expand the league and make everyone a whole lot of money.

But it wasn’t just crafty marketing that Stern completed in his tenure.

Stern expanded the NBA into a global brand. In the 90s, the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies were introduced (along with new domestic franchises like the Hornets, Timberwolves, Heat, Magic, and Bobcats).

Stern struck deals with television channels across the world, enabling the NBA to be seen by a wider audience. He also allowed professional players to play for the national team, paving the way for the 1992 Dream Team, which did wonders for showcasing the NBA’s premier stars and intrigue to the rest of the world.

U.S. citizens that were alive in the late 70s and early 80s surely could not expect that the NBA would be as prosperous and popular as it is today, but the league is in an extraordinary position because of Stern’s efforts.

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a unicorn in his abilities and hails from Greece, while his family is from Nigeria, and Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic is a Slovenian phenom who most recently played in Spain.

Without the global outreach efforts of Stern, it is unlikely we would be able to witness to these talents, and the advantages the league has provided for those two superstars and others like them.

Stern also established the league’s social responsibility program, NBA Cares, demonstrating the league’s focus on being about more than basketball. Stern showed himself to be a man of passion, integrity, and devotion for the game, and all those in it.

In regards to his passion for the game President of the Golden State Warriors told the NYT:

β€œHe would talk about the athletes, the beauty of the sport, and explain how we were going to create a business structure around this to make it a really good investment…”

Welts continued,

β€œHe was mesmerizing when he would get in a room. You couldn’t not believe him because of the passion.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took to Twitter as well to express his gratitude and respect for the late great David Stern.

Players, coaches, and media members all voiced their admiration and appreciation for Stern after his passing.


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The NBA is the league of superstars, the league of social media, the league for the community and the people.

The NBA is the entertainment league, and without David Stern, none of it would have been possible. We owe a debt of gratitude to the man who saw the promise in a stuttering league and built it up to be the league of the culture.

David Stern’s legacy will forever be remembered and may he rest in power.