Former NBA Commissioner David Stern Dies: Players and Fans React to the News

David Stern became the NBA's commissioner in 1984, and he oversaw its massive economic growth and global footprint over the 30 years he led the league. Stern suffered a brain hemorrhage in December, and he died New Year's Day 2020.

Stern was 77.

Some of the NBA's stars when Stern took over as commissioner were Magic, Bird, Kareem, Dr. J and Moses Malone. Then came Jordan, Dominique, Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Barkeley, and the 90's ushered in the likes of Shaq, Kobe, Iverson and then LeBron James in the new century.

Stern was behind some of the magnificent television growth in the sport, helping use the popularity of its stars and rivalries to start making significant gains in revenue.

The NBA went from a million-dollar industry to a multi-billion dollar league by the time he retired in 2014. His tenure was not without his fair share of confrontations, though. For instance, he fined Michael Jordan for violating the league's dress code when Jordan wore Jordan sneakers, which later turned into its own multi-billion dollar business.

NBA David Stern
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern attends the "Kareem: Minority Of One" New York Premiere at Time Warner Center on October 26, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

Stern fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban 20-something times, some well into the hundreds of thousands for "blogging about the officials," the Washington Post reported. Stern dealt with two player lockouts and shortened seasons, corrupt referees and even being called a "plantation overseer' by HBO's Bryant Gumbel.

Stern was supportive of Magic Johnson when the Lakers star announced in 1991 he was HIV positive, and Johnson said Stern was a "good friend who helped save my life."

The first Dream Team of NBA all-stars playing in the 1992 Summer Olympics happened on his watch, as did the meteoric rise in salaries across the league.

"Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today," Jordan tweeted Wednesday. "He guided the league through turbulent times and he grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before."

Statement from Michael Jordan: pic.twitter.com/Q7AGlvwLdn

— Estee Portnoy (@esteep) January 1, 2020

Stern is also credited with helping create the WNBA and expanding basketball beyond America's borders, playing regular-season NBA games internationally.

Other accomplishments include:

  • Ending NBA playoff games being shown on tape delay
  • First pro league to broadcast on cable
  • Introduced the Draft lottery in 1985
  • Launched WNBA and G-League
  • Launched NBA TV
  • Increased players' annual salary average from $330K to $7.7 million

As news broke Wednesday afternoon of his death, players, former players, fans and even sportswriters and broadcasters showed their reactions on Twitter, and here are a few of them:

I can not put into words what the friendship of David Stern has meant to me but many others. He changed so many lives. David was a great innovator and made the game we love what it is today. This is a horrible loss. Our hearts are with Dianne & their family. RIP my friend. @NBA pic.twitter.com/mbnneqm18s

— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) January 1, 2020

Very sad day for basketball. We saw David Stern a lot in the 90s and I found him to be kind, thoughtful and almost always the smartest person in the room. He was an innovator who helped grow our sport into a global game and his impact will never be forgotten. RIP, Commissioner. pic.twitter.com/FzlJwnJmrK

— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) January 1, 2020

RIP to former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who presided over unprecedented global growth of the NBA and basketball for 30 years. Precious few have had comparable impact upon the game. Sad news for the world basketball community. pic.twitter.com/8OF1UybTA0

— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 1, 2020

So sad to just learn that David Stern an innovator and a man responsible for the growth of the @NBA has passed . David is a SOLID GOLD Hall of Famer . @Hoophall May he RIP

— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) January 1, 2020

The NBA went bankrupt in the 70’s. Under David Stern’s guidance the league blossomed beginning in the 1980’s. He implemented the draft lottery, paved the way for the original dream team in 1992 and turned it into the international business it is today

— trey wingo (@wingoz) January 1, 2020

David Stern was the mastermind of the WNBA and contributed to the women's game at the professional level. May he rest in peace. https://t.co/faBtJxufgk

— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) January 1, 2020