David Stern is an American businessman and lawyer, best known for being the fourth commissioner of the ‘National Basketball Association’ (NBA). Born and raised in a Jewish family in New York City, David graduated high school from ‘Teaneck High School.’ He then graduated in history from ‘Rutgers University’ and then attended ‘Columbia Law School.’ Subsequently, he began working at the law firm ‘Proskauer, Rose, Goetz and Mendelsohn,’ which represented the ‘National Basketball League.’ He joined the law firm as an outside counsel in 1966, and in the late 1970s, he became the general counsel. In 1980, he had a huge breakthrough when he was selected to become the league’s executive vice president. He became the commissioner of the ‘NBA’ in 1984 and thus began a successful tenure that made the ‘NBA’ hugely popular in the country. David used many tactics, sometimes controversial, to popularize the ‘NBA’ in the US. On February 1, 2014, he stepped down from his position after serving the league for 30 years as a commissioner. He was the longest-serving ‘NBA’ commissioner at the time of his retirement.
Childhood & Early Life
David Joel Stern was born in New York City, US, on September 22, 1942, to Anna and William Stern. He was raised in a middle-class Jewish household, and his family owned a delicatessen in the heart of the city, where they sold cooked meat and cheese, among other food products.
Shortly after he was born, the family moved to Teaneck, New Jersey. He enrolled at the ‘Teaneck High School,’ with an eye on making a career in law.
He also worked part-time at his father’s delicatessen and learned a great deal about how to run a business, which certainly became helpful in his later career.
Although he built a career in sports administration, he was never quite interested in basketball or sports in general. He was always an academically inclined student.
Following high-school graduation, he joined the ‘University of Rutgers,’ to study history. During his college years, he was pledged to the ‘Sigma Delta’ chapter of the ‘Alpha Mu Fraternity.’
He received his bachelor’s degree in history in 1963 and began preparing to enter law school. He graduated from the ‘Columbia Law School’ in 1966 and cleared the ‘New York Bar’ exam to officially become a lawyer.
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David first began working with the ‘NBA’ in 1966, when he was hired as an outside counsel for the law firm ‘Proskauer, Rose, Goetz and Mendelsohn.’ It was the law firm that legally represented the league’s interests. It was a big opportunity for David, considering it was his first major job.
He was assigned as the lead attorney by the firm to represent the ‘NBA’ in the famous Robertson vs ‘NBA’ case, which was brought upon the league by the former star player Oscar Robertson. David ended up settling the issue in 1976, when the ‘NBA’/‘ABA’ merger was accepted in return for the abolishment of the clause that did not allow the players to be free agents. This case is also known as one of the landmark cases in the history of the ‘NBA.’
In 1978, pleased with his work, ‘NBA’ commissioner Larry O’Brien offered David a huge opportunity to become the ‘NBA’s general counsel. David left the law firm in order to take on his new responsibilities.
He quickly grew within the organization, and by the time the 1980s arrived, he was serving as the executive vice president of the ‘NBA.’ His tenure was filled with many bold decisions that shaped the outlook of the league for good.
Two of the many landmark decisions that were made under his tenure were regarding drug testing and the team salary cap. The drug-testing rule was brought in to lift up the deteriorating image of the ‘NBA,’ as many players were getting accused of drug abuse. The salary cap benefitted the players greatly and created a system in which the team management and the players became partners in profit sharing.
David saw a huge solidification of his position within the circles of the ‘NBA.’ It paid off greatly when he was offered the position of the commissioner of the ‘NBA’ in 1984.
After he took on as a commissioner, the popularity of the ‘NBA’ among the masses skyrocketed. Its popularity, however, is also attributed to the fact that around the same time, star players such as Michael Jordan entered the game.
More players, such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton, joined the ‘NBA.’ Many famous companies, such as ‘Nike,’ too, promoted the league among the masses.
The ‘NBA’ thus became a highly profitable entity under David’s leadership. The 1990s and the 2000s are known as the golden age of the ‘NBA.’
David also oversaw the foundation of the women’s basketball league ‘WNBA.’
In addition, David used a businessman approach to build the ‘NBA’ as a brand, by organizing training camps, inviting international players, and organizing international exhibition matches.
After serving as the ‘NBA’s longest-serving commissioner for 30 years, David retired in February 2014.
He was honored with the ‘Olympic Order’ in 2012. In 2016, he was inducted into the ‘FIBA Hall of Fame.’
In 2005, there was a lot of uproar about the dress sense of many ‘NBA’ players. David Stern saw it as a hurdle in the “professional” approach that he wanted. The new uniform code stated that the players were required to maintain strict dress decorum during public ‘NBA’ events.
Family & Personal Life
David currently lives in Scarsdale, New York, with his wife, Dianne Bock Stern, and his two sons, Eric and Andrew.