Stern ends 30-year run as NBA boss, Silver takes over

Stern ends 30-year run as NBA boss, Silver takes over

NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
Stern ends 30-year run as NBA boss, Silver takes over

David Stern leaves his job as the NBA commissioner after 30 years, leaving an unmatchable legacy to the league. Stern has transformed the NBA from a downtrodden afterthought into a global sporting powerhouse. AP photo

David Stern has stepped down on Feb. 1 after 30 years as commissioner of the NBA, a reign that saw him transform the league from a downtrodden afterthought into a global sporting powerhouse.

The 71-year-old son of a New York deli owner revitalized the NBA with business and marketing moves that took full advantage of the skills of such stars as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James.

“This has been a great run,” Stern said. “I’ve had a lot of fun.”

A league that had some playoff games shown on tape delay when Stern began now telecasts the NBA Finals into 215 nations in 47 languages.

“We had to get the finals off tape delay,” Stern said. “We had not to cut out franchises. We had four getting ready to file bankruptcy.”

The once-weak NBA now generates $5.5 billion in annual revenues, has a worldwide fan base, teams worth an average of $634 million and players who average $4 million in annual salary.

“I’m very happy with where we are,” Stern said. “I’m looking forward to perhaps traveling for the NBA on an international basis and enjoying watching its continued growth.”

Stern’s tenure, the longest among active US sport league bosses, ended on Feb. 1 when Adam Silver, the long-time NBA deputy commissioner, takes over Stern’s job exactly 30 years to the day when Stern’s reign began.

“He has been the commissioner for the last 10 years. They just haven’t given him the check,” Stern said. “He is going to be great. Everything we have done for at least the last 22 years we have done together.”

Mark Tatum, the NBA executive vice president of global marketing partnership, will take Silver’s former job.

Stern said in a statement: “It is a source of great satisfaction to me that the NBA will now be led by commissioner Adam Silver, for whom I have tremendous admiration, respect and expectations as he and his experienced and dedicated team take the NBA to successes that were unimaginable even a short while ago.”

Bird-Magic era

Stern was hired as the NBA’s general counsel in 1978, a year before Bird and “Magic” joined the league and the same year the NBA made its first step overseas when the Washington Bullets plated Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.

Stern became commissioner in 1984 and guided the league through good times such as the US Dream Team of NBA stars at the 1992 Olympics and the steady rise of team values as businesses as fan interest grew worldwide and business operations expanded to China, Europe and India.

“We had a few international players, a few international markets,” Stern said. “This season we started with (a record) 92 non-US-born players on our rosters.”

The league expanded from 23 to 30 teams and the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls are all valued at $1 billion or more.

Stern navigated the rough waters, including money disputes with players resulting in lockout-shortened seasons in 1999 and 2011-2012 but also bringing a salary cap and luxury tax rules that leveled expenses and brought a measure of parity to teams.

Surviving scandals

Stern helped solidify the NBA’s image after a brawl between Indiana and Detroit players spilled into the stands among spectators and bolstered the league’s credibility when referee Tim Donaghy was found to have made calls to aid gamblers.

When Magic Johnson announced in 1991 that he had contracted the HIV virus, Stern sat beside him.
Stern banned players for life over drug issues in the 1980s, cleaning up the league’s reputation and even imposed a dress code to help turn NBA players into marketing icons -- none more so than Jordan -- as well as GQ fashion stars.

“I’m proud of the fact our players who didn’t used to be so well regarded are now well respected on the court as well as off the court,” Stern said.

Stern showed a lighter side on Jan. 29, appearing on David Letterman’s talk show and reading a tongue-in-cheek list of things he learned as commissioner.

Among them: “When international diplomacy is required, call Dennis Rodman”; “Our least-paid mascot made $5 million a year”; “I’m an inspiration to short, unathletic kids everywhere” and “I hear sneaker squeaks in my sleep.”

And Stern delivered one last fine to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on Jan. 18, a $100,000 one for criticizing officials on the court.

“I couldn’t let the comish go without a proper farewell,” said Cuban, whose 20 fines over the years cost him a total of $1.9 million.