David Stern, a basketball hall-of-famer and former commissioner of the NBA, died on Wednesday at age 77. The NBA issued a statement saying that his death was a result of a brain hemorrhage that he suffered in mid-December.
Stern spent 30 years as commissioner of the NBA, beginning in 1984. He took over the league during a time of some uncertainty; the NBA’s image had been battered by reports of widespread drug use among players. But that same year, Michael Jordan entered the league along with other soon-to-be superstars like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Under Stern’s leadership, the league began to soar. It added seven new teams, spread its brand globally and saw revenue and player salaries skyrocket.
Stern was also a driving force behind the creation of the Women’s National Basketball Association in 1996. The commissioner of the WNBA, Cathy Englebert, described Stern’s commitment to women’s sports as “ahead of its time” and said it had “provided countless opportunities for women and young girls who aspire to play basketball.”
During Stern’s time as commissioner, the NBA did see some problems, including tense labor battles that led to shortened seasons and four player lockouts. Even so, Stern has been described as one of the most influential commissioners in NBA history. When he stepped down as commissioner in 2014, Stern was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Stern is survived by his wife, Dianne, and his sons Andrew and Eric. In a statement on Twitter, the current NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, wrote, “Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration.”