NBA commissioner David Stern announced Thursday that he will retire on February 1, 2014, handing the league over to deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
Stern, 70, took charge of the league in 1984, and professional basketball blossomed immediately with his help. His first year coincided with the legendary 1984 draft class that featured the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton, and the league entered a golden era thanks to both the talent boom and Stern’s leadership.
Stern also implemented the first NBA Draft Lottery in 1985, and with NBA players participating in the Olympics for the first time in 1992, basketball became a global sport under his watch. He has taken numerous measures to expand the game across the globe, including playing exhibition games overseas, holding camps in other countries, recruiting more international players, and of course, establishing the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies as the first non-American NBA teams in 1995.
The Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001, but Stern’s presence is still felt in Toronto. Not only are 41 games a year played in the Air Canada Centre, but the team’s international flavor is a testament to Stern’s legacy. Without his dedicated effort to make basketball a global sport, the likes of Jose Calderon (Spain), Linas Kleiza (Lithuania), Andrea Bargnani (Italy), Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania), and Tomislav Zubcic (Croatia) may have never played this magnificent game.
Stern certainly was not a perfect commissioner—the lockouts of 1998 and 2011 prove that—but he is perhaps the most influential figure in the history of basketball. NBA games are now broadcast in 215 countries and 43 languages, and as Stern said in his press conference today, the game is in terrific shape.
We still have 15 more months of Stern, so there’s no need to get all sappy with the farewells now. But when he does step away, David Stern will be missed.
You can watch his announcement here, courtesy of ESPN.
Austin Green is the editor of Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.