David Stern, Influential NBA Commissioner And Basketball Hall-Of-Famer, Has Died The longtime commissioner of the NBA — and a champion of the WNBA — died on Wednesday.
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David Stern, One Of The Most Influential NBA Commissioners, Dies At 77

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David Stern, One Of The Most Influential NBA Commissioners, Dies At 77

David Stern, One Of The Most Influential NBA Commissioners, Dies At 77

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

David Stern never scored a single point in the National Basketball Association. He profoundly influenced the players who did and the experience of the fans who watched. The former longtime league commissioner died yesterday at 77, and NPR's Tom Goldman reports on why David Stern left such an impression.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: David Stern was commissioner from February 1, 1984 to February 1, 2014. But while there was symmetry, there was nothing tidy about his three decades on the job. They were explosive, expansive, groundbreaking and stunning when you consider the NBA David Stern took over. Playoff games had been broadcast on tape delay, teams had been losing money, cocaine use reportedly was widespread among players.

But just a few months into his tenure, Stern stepped up to a dais in New York City and ignited the spark that lifted the league skyward.

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DAVID STERN: The Chicago Bulls pick Michael Jordan from University of North Carolina.

GOLDMAN: Behind Jordan and other emerging stars of the '80s - Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley - the NBA game became irresistible. But it was Stern, the keen businessman, who parlayed those players' skill and stardom into something even bigger. Hall of Fame player Isaiah Thomas talked about Stern on NBA TV.

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ISAIAH THOMAS: The courage that he had and the belief and the stubbornness that he had to pursue his vision of what the league could be like globally.

GOLDMAN: Under Stern, the NBA opened offices in more than a dozen cities outside the U.S. He worked out TV deals to broadcast games in more than 200 countries. In this country, he helped start the WNBA. Stern's support of Magic Johnson in the early 1990s when the Lakers star announced he was HIV positive, that set the tone for a league with players now known for speaking out on social issues.

There were missteps. Asked about regrets in an interview with The Undefeated a few months ago, Stern mentioned the four owner lockouts of players during his time.

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STERN: I would love to have had clear sailing and unanimous agreement on collective bargaining, but I didn't. And that's a failure, I would say.

GOLDMAN: But mostly, his steps were true. Stern was, in the words of former WNBA president Val Ackerman, an innovator, a taskmaster and a role model. Among the condolences pouring in, this tweet from NBA Spain, gracias por tanto - thanks for so much. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SYLVAIN CHAUVEAU'S "BLANC")

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