David Stern, the lawyer who became the head of the National Basketball Association and had been the longest-serving commissioner of any major U.S. sport, died on New Year’s Day 2020. He was 77.
Stern died three weeks after being hospitalized for a sudden brain hemorrhage. His wife, Dianne, and their family were at his bedside when he died, the NBA said.
During his 30-year tenure from 1984 to 2014, he took the NBA from a 23-team organization struggling to make a profit to a 30-team operation whose revenue increased by 30 times to a reported $5 billion.
Mr. Stern began his association with the NBA in 1966 as outside counsel, joined the NBA in 1978 as General Counsel and became the league’s Executive Vice President in 1980. During those years, he had a hand in virtually every matter that would shape the league, including the landmark 1976 settlement between the NBA and its players leading to free agency; the collective bargaining agreement that introduced the salary cap and revenue sharing; professional sports’ first anti-drug agreement; and the creation of NBA Entertainment, a marketing, television and multi-media production company that has been telling the NBA story in award-winning fashion for two decades.
Mr. Stern is the chair emeritus of the Trustees of Columbia University and serves or has served on the boards of Beth Israel Medical Center, the Rutgers University Foundation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, the Museum of Television and Radio, and Jazz At Lincoln Center. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A native of New York City, Mr. Stern is a graduate of Rutgers University and Columbia Law School. He is married to Dianne Bock Stern, and they are the parents of two adult sons.