The basketball world is in mourning over the unfortunate passing of former NBA Commissioner David Stern at the age of 77 years old.
Stern served in the position for 30 years before retiring in February 2014 and over the years, he built relationships with all of league’s All-Star players from Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James.
A number of changes occurred during Stern’s tenure such as seven new teams being admitted to the NBA and the insistence on players participating in the Olympics and other international competitions. Arguably the biggest thing to happen during his tenure was the international growth of the league.
The reach of the NBA expanded exponentially, becoming the most global of all American sports leagues. This was something that Stern pushed for and what came to the mind of LeBron James when reflecting on his legacy.
“It was bittersweet. The bitter part of it is that we lost a great visionary. I think him and Dr. James Naismith were two of the most important people for the game of basketball,” LeBron said following the team’s win over the Phoenix Suns. Obviously, Dr. Naismith because he created the game. David… his vision, his vision to make this game global.”
“I don’t know how many people believed in that with him or thought it was something that couldn’t be done, but he made this game global where this game is watched in over 200 countries over the world. You just look at the collective group of players. You’ve got the Giannis, the Dirk, the Manu, and the Luka now, and so on and so on. I think you have to give him so much credit because of that. He saw the game being so much greater than just in the States domestically.”
That has certainly come to fruition as basketball is truly a global game and that reach can be felt in the league today. On a personal level, James — like many others — will always remember the moment of being drafted.
“For me personally, it was a dream come true to step on that stage and shake David’s hand, knowing where I come from, and gaining the relationship over the course of my career with him. That’s great. My prayers and my condolences go to his family.”
For so many legends of the game, their first memory was walking across that stage at the NBA Draft and shaking Stern’s hand. Stern did so much to help grow the league that so many love and his loss will be felt worldwide.