In an NBA Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, NBA commissioner David Stern announced that he will step down on February 1, 2014 – 30 years after he first earned that title. Current deputy commissioner Adam Silver was announced unanimously as his successor.
Stern started on February 1, 1984 and is the NBA’s longest-serving commissioner in it’s 60-plus years as a league. He has been the catalyst to expanding the league into the rest of the world, having overseen the league when international players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Drazen Petrovic, Dirk Nowitzki, and Yao Ming entered the league and changed the landscape of the NBA.
In addition to spreading the game of basketball across the world, he helped establish the WNBA, giving female basketball players a chance to showcase their talents on a bigger stage. The NBA Development League, or NBADL, also began under his watch, helping players develop and receive playing time they wouldn’t get in the big leagues.
In addition to those contributions, Stern saw the creation of seven new teams (Hornets, Timberwolves, Heat, Magic, Grizzlies, Raptors and Bobcats) and the relocation of six others (Clippers, Kings, Grizzlies, Nets, Hornets and Sonics) during his time as commissioner.
That’s not to say that it’s been all good in his 30 years. There have been four lockouts – 1995, 1996, 1998-99 and 2011 – that have led to shortened seasons and increased tensions between the NBA and the NBA Players’ Union.
Stern has also been involved in numerous controversial personnel decisions, including last season’s vetoed Chris Paul trade to the Lakers and several NBA drafts that have led many to believe the #1 picks have been manipulated; perhaps most famous is Patrick Ewing in the 1985 draft. Last season’s draft also saw the Hornets, a team that had just been bought from Stern and the NBA, won the right to pick first despite the Charlotte Bobcats having the worst record in NBA history.
Despite all the negatives, Stern will go down as the best commissioner in NBA history – possibly even in the four major sports. No other league official has helped promote and grow their league into what the NBA has become today, and a large portion of that is because of Stern.
”Life is a journey and it’s been a spectacular journey,” Stern said. ”Each step along the way there are things that you have to do, things that you maybe wish you hadn’t done. But I don’t keep that list, and so I’m totally pleased and I’m particularly pleased with the transition of which we’re now embarking.”
That quote from Stern perfectly encompasses his tenure as NBA commissioner.