David Stern retires after 30 years


David Stern spent three decades as commissioner of the NBA

On February 1st, 2014 David Stern retired as commissioner of the NBA, a position he has held since 1984. His retirement fell on the 30th anniversary of the day he accepted the position. Stern was the longest tenured commissioner in all of professional sports.

When Stern took the job in 1984, the league was nothing like what it is today. The league contained only 23 teams, it now has 30. Also when Stern took the position, the NBA was only broadcast in two countries. Last year’s NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs was broadcast to 215 countries. It is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports in the world.

Stern also helped make the league more marketable. When he stepped in as commissioner the NBA’s annual television revenue was less than $30 million; today it is worth roughly $1 billion. The NBA even has its own channel now.

Stern oversaw the development of two leagues, the Women’s National Basketball Association and the NBA Developmental League. Stern also implemented the first anti-drug agreement in professional sports.

Stern is also remembered for some not so great times. Stern was head of the league during two lockouts, causing players and owners to lose millions upon millions of dollars, and also preventing the fans from seeing the game they love. Some people still hold a grudge against him for being greedy and favoring with the owners and causing those lock outs.

Most people will evaluate Stern’s tenure in terms of cold hard cash. In that regard, Stern definitely did his job. Under Stern’s leadership, the revenue is increasing more than 30-fold, from $165 million in 1984 to $5.5 billion today. He has made the NBA into an investment goldmine. Today just an average NBA team can be worth upwards of $500 million dollars.

As David Stern retires, the gauntlet is passed to his right hand man, Adam Silver. With Silver comes new hope for the league, to continue its growth in size and in popularity worldwide. Commissioner Stern was able to do both, and has left some pretty large shoes for Silver to fill.