Pro Sports

David Stern had a huge impact on the NBA

David Stern passed away on Jan.1, 2020. He was NBA Commissioner Emeritus and had served as commissioner for 30 years.

David Stern, NBA Commissioner Emeritus passed away Wednesday, January 1st, 2020. Stern, aged 77, was the longest-serving commissioner of the league having spent 30 years at the position. Stern had suffered a brain injury nearly three weeks prior on December 12, and immediately went to emergency surgery. Stern’s death brings sadness to fans all over the league as he was known for his compassion for others and love for the game. 

Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan, left, receives the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy from Commissioner David Stern during a ceremony in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Bennett, File)

Stern is primarily responsible for turning a struggling NBA into the globally popular, multi-billion dollar per year industry it currently is. Stern cared so much for the game of basketball, the league he commissioned, and all of the players in it. Before Stern, the NBA struggled to maintain cultural relevance, and a steady following. He brought the league to millions, but kept it personable and familiar. Throughout his tenure, Stern’s passion for the game was openly displayed through his interactions with players. 

One story of Stern’s love for the game, and those involved, is of when Magic Johnson was going through the process of retiring because of his HIV diagnosis. At this time, many Americans were misinformed about the disease, and the ways in which it is contracted. Stern didn’t know much of anything about HIV at the time or what would happen to Magic, but he cared about being there for his friend. Rather than fearing a bead of Johnson’s sweat or what others may think of him, Stern sat right by his side at the retirement conference. Stern stood against the stigmatization of the disease, and worked to educate others on it. 

David Stern and Magic Johnson with Johnson’s MVP trophy. (

When Stern took over as commissioner, he was determined to make something of the league much greater than it was. Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas described the ‘bold vision’ that David Stern had for the game, while all-time legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stated, “He’s responsible for the worldwide popularity of the game today.” He brought promise back to the league by broadening the NBA’s audience to the whole world, and marketing specific star players rather than just the teams. 

Stern changed how we watch basketball and brought fans connections to teams and players in a way that hadn’t been achieved before. With the rivalry of stars Larry Bird and Magic Johnson fans began to see much more than a team name and their score. People followed more than just the 48 minutes of regular time, becoming invested in their team, it’s players, and the rivalries in both. David Stern saved the league itself, as well as the culture of basketball in America.

Patrick O’Toole is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

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