Basketball Wiki
David Stern
David Stern
Stern attending Jazz at Lincoln Center's 2019 Gala in April 2019.
4th Commissioner of the NBA
February 1, 1984 – January 31, 2014
Deputy: Adam Silver
Predecessor: Larry O'Brien
Successor: Adam Silver
Personal information
Full name: David Joel Stern
Born: September 22, 1942
New York, New York
Death: January 1, 2020 (aged 77)
New York, New York
Nationality: Flag of the United States American
Career information
College: Rutgers (1960-1963)
Columbia Law School
(1966) Early life
Occupation: Business Executive/Lawyer
Executive career: 1978-2014 (36 years)
Executive career history
1978-1980 NBA General Counsel
1980-1984 Executive Vice President
1984-2014 Commissioner of the NBA
Awards & Accomplishments

David Joel Stern (September 22, 1942 – January 1, 2020) was an American lawyer and retired basketball executive who served as Commissioner of the NBA from 1984–2014.

Stern was credited with increasing the popularity of the NBA in the 1990s and 2000s. He had also been credited with developing and broadening the NBA's audience, especially internationally setting up training camps, playing exhibition games, and recruiting more international players. In addition, with Stern's guidance the NBA opened 12 offices in cities outside the United States, and broadcast to over 200 territories in over 40 languages. Stern also helped found the Women's National Basketball Association and the NBA G League, the NBA's development league. Under Stern, the NBA launched their digital presence with, NBA TV, and NBA League Pass. He also established the NBA's social responsibility program, NBA Cares.


Stern was born in New York City, but grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. He went to Rutger University graduating on the deans list. In 1966, he attended Coloumbia Law School. That year he joined the NBA Counsel. In 1980, he was promoted Vice President. He brought in profit and expanded the franchise. When Larry O'Brien retired in 1984 he was promoted to Commissioner.

National Basketball Association

His first association with the NBA in 1966 was as an outside counsel at Proskauer Rose. In 1978, Stern became the NBA's General Counsel under Larry O'Brien. By 1980, he was Executive Vice President of the NBA. During this time, two landmark decisions were reached with the NBA Players' Association: drug testing and team salary cap. The drug testing dealt with the perception that most basketball players used drugs, that the NBA admitted it had a problem, and it was cleaning it up. The salary cap created a revenue-sharing system where owner and player were effectively partners. Both of these agreements solidified Stern's standing inside NBA circles.

On February 1, 1984, Stern became the Commissioner of the NBA, succeeding Larry O'Brien. It was during that same year (1984-85) that four of the NBA's biggest superstars — Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton — entered the league. The arrival of Michael Jordan, in particular, ushered in a new era of commercial bounty for the NBA. With him came his flair and talent for the game, and that brought in shoe contracts from Nike which helped to give the league even more national attention. Jordan and the two other premier basketball legends of the 1980s, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, took the game to new heights of popularity and profit.

By 2004, Stern oversaw the NBA expand from 10 to 30 franchises (since 1966), expand into Canada, and televise games in countries around the world. Stern also oversaw the creation of the WNBA, a professional women's basketball league. Stern has been credited for developing and broadening the NBA's audience, by setting up training camps, playing exhibition games around the world, and recruiting more international players. The NBA now has 11 offices in cities outside the United States, is televised in 215 countries around the world in 43 languages, and operates the Women's National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Development League under Stern's watch.


On December 12, 2019, Stern suffered a brain hemorrhage and underwent emergency surgery. He died in Manhattan on January 1, 2020, at age 77.