IT’S the tributes that tug at the heart.
David Stern’s passing on Jan. 2, 2020, drew emotions that cried out louder than the Mt. Pinatubo eruptions. Stern, the longest-serving commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) spanning 30 years, was 77 when a brain hemorrhage snuffed out his life.
When he retired in 2014 as the NBA commissioner beginning Feb. 1, 1984 (I was then writing columns for Bulletin, Tempo and Who Magazine), Stern had transformed a struggling league into a mammoth $5-billion plus a year industry.
He had made NBA players into international stars and certified rich and famous equal in billing and stature with Hollywood celebrities.
Under him, NBA basketball became the world’s most popular sport after soccer. It still is.
“The entire basketball community is heartbroken,” the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) said. “David Stern earned and deserved inclusion in our land of giants.”
From LeBron James: “I will never EVER forget when you called my name on stage and I shook your hand. My dream came true! Thank you for your commitment to the beautiful game of basketball that has changed so many young adult/kids’ lives. More importantly, your vision to make our game become WORLDWIDE was a vision only you could make it happen! You did just that.”
Magic Johnson, the legendary guard of the Los Angeles Lakers, called Stern a “history maker.” He said: “When I announced in 1991 I had HIV, people thought they could get the virus from shaking my hand. When David allowed me to play in the 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando and then play for the Olympic Dream Team in Barcelona 1992, we were able to change the world.”
But perhaps, the best tribute came from Michael Jordan, the greatest cager of all time. He said: “Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today. He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before.”
Rest in peace, Stern. Mission accomplished.