By Robert Gluck/JNS.org –
When the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs tip off on April 19, the star players who take the court should credit their status to recently retired league commissioner David Stern, according to Peter Horvitz, author of “The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heroes.”
Horvitz said Stern’s leadership of the NBA for 30 years saw the league shift from the fringe of sports fans’ attention to the very center.
“The leading players of the sport have become true superstars,” Horvitz told JNS.org. “Players like Larry Bird, Dr. J, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan have become cultural icons. I don’t think the prosperity and popularity of any sport owes so much to the executive abilities of a single man more than basketball owes to David Stern.”
Stern—who grew up in a Jewish family in Teaneck, NJ—retired from his role as commissioner on Feb. 1 and will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer. Hall of Fame Board Chairman Jerry Colangelo said Stern, a lawyer by trade, made himself a marketing genius through his work for the NBA.
“With intelligence and hard work he was always on the cutting edge in the areas of cable [television] and technology,” Colangelo told JNS.org. “He positioned the NBA to take advantage of the new wave of technology and put us in a position on an international stage to be the first professional league to have a major foothold internationally. By doing this he elevated the league in a tremendous way.”
Colangelo—who formerly owned the Phoenix Suns of the NBA, the Phoenix Mercury of the Women’s National Basketball Association, and the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball—said Stern “had great autonomy in terms of making decisions, and he proved to be an extraordinary leader of wealthy owners.”
Click photo to download. Caption: Brian Scalabrine of the Boston Celtics (far right) accepts his NBA championship ring in October 2008 from then NBA commissioner David Stern. Credit: Eric Kilby via Wikimedia Commons.
Before rising to the rank of commissioner in 1984, Stern was the NBA’s executive vice-president and its general counsel. During his tenure as commissioner, the league expanded from 23 to 30 teams and television revenue increased from $10 million per year to $900 million per year. Stern implemented several rule changes in the game, instituted the age limit for NBA Draft entries, created the draft’s lottery system, oversaw the launch of the NBA Developmental League, and managed the relocation of six franchises.
“I’ve known David since 1967,” Colangelo said. “To have watched his growth as an individual, as a lawyer with great business acumen, as someone who developed relational skills—I’ve seen the whole journey …read more