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David Stern

(1942 - 2020)

David Stern is a Jewish American executive and served as commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Stern was born on September 22, 1942, in New York City and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. He received his B.A. from Rutgers University in 1963 and earned his law degree from Columbia University in 1966.

After graduating from Columbia, Stern began handling legal business for the NBA. In 1978, he left his law firm to become legal counsel for the league. Two years later, the position of “Executive Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs” was created for Stern, and he was charged with finding creative and productive ways to use marketing, television, and public relations to boost the NBA’s image.

In 1984, at the age of 42, Stern became the fourth commissioner of the NBA. When he assumed his new office, the league was going through an exceptionally difficult financial period - most teams were losing money, fan attendance and television ratings had dropped and corporate sponsors were abandoning the sport. Under Stern’s leadership, however, the league became unprecedentedly successful. He negotiated an agreement between the players and owners based on revenue sharing and also marketed the league by emphasizing the extraordinary skills of such individual stars as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. In 1989, the Associated Press voted Stern the Executive of the Decade.

In October 2012, Stern announced that he would officially retire from his position on February 1, 2014, thirty years to the day after beginning his tenure as commissioner.

“David took over the NBA in 1984 with the league at a crossroads,” Adam Silver, his successor, said. “But over the course of 30 years as Commissioner, he ushered in the modern global NBA. He launched groundbreaking media and marketing partnerships, digital assets and social responsibility programs that have brought the game to billions of people around the world. Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation.”

Stern is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

He and his wife were also philanthropists who donated to a number of Jewish causes through the Dianne and David Stern Foundation.

Stern died on January 1, 2020, at the age of 77.

Sources: Jews in Sports;

Marc Brodsky, “David Stern, longtime NBA commissioner who guided the league to global popularity, dies at 77,” JTA, (January 1, 2020).

Photo: Cody Mulcahy. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.