David Stern, the legendary former NBA commissioner, died Wednesday nearly three weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage, the league announced. He was 77. Stern guided the basketball league into its most lucrative era: In 1983, the NBA’s revenues totaled $118 million. Last year the league topped $8 billion.
“For 22 years, I had a courtside seat to watch David in action," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "He was a mentor and one of my dearest friends. We spent countless hours in the office, at arenas and on planes wherever the game would take us. Like every NBA legend, David had extraordinary talents, but with him it was always about the fundamentals – preparation, attention to detail, and hard work.
“David took over the NBA in 1984 with the league at a crossroads. But over the course of 30 years as Commissioner, he ushered in the modern global NBA. He launched groundbreaking media and marketing partnerships, digital assets and social responsibility programs that have brought the game to billions of people around the world. Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand – making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation.
“Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration. Our deepest condolences go out to David’s wife, Dianne, their sons, Andrew and Eric, and their extended family, and we share our grief with everyone whose life was touched by him.”
NBA legend Michael Jordan, in a statement to The Athletic, said, in part, "I wouldn't be where I am without him."
Officials from around the sports world also paid tribute to Stern on Wednesday, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calling him "the dean of commissioners" and NHL boss Gary Bettman calling Stern his mentor.
"All of us at the National Football League are deeply saddened by the passing of David Stern," Goodell said in a statement. "David was a driving force in sports for decades and helped the NBA soar to new heights around the world. I called him the dean of commissioners, not only for his longevity and his vision for the NBA, but for his willingness to offer advice when I first started as NFL commissioner. We extend our condolences and support to David's wife, Dianne, their sons, Andrew and Eric, and our friends at the NBA."
NHL Commissioner Bettman said in a statement, "I am extremely saddened at the passing of my mentor and long-time friend David Stern. He was a man of great vision and energy who is responsible for the operational and business advancements that created the modern sports industry. David taught me how to be a commissioner and, more importantly, how to try to be a good person. David will be missed terribly, especially by his wife Dianne and his sons Andrew and Eric, all of whom have Shelli's and my deepest condolences."
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. "The WNBA will be forever grateful for his exemplary leadership and vision that led to the founding of our league. His steadfast commitment to women’s sports was ahead of its time and has provided countless opportunities for women and young girls who aspire to play basketball. He will be missed.”
Stern suffered the hemorrhage at a Manhattan restaurant and had the operation at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital.
Recently Dr. Paul Saphier, a neurosurgeon who was not treating Stern but is familiar with the condition, said Stern's hemorrhagic stroke is the most common, affecting more than 80,000 people in the U.S. each year.
Of those patients who do survive a month, about two-thirds will not return to independent living or normal daily function, he said.
Stern stepped down from running the league in 2014 after a 30-year run overseeing explosive growth in the popularity of the game and league revenues.
The former league lawyer instituted a team salary cap that helped improve profitability for teams, expanded the pro game beyond the United States opening offices in China and Mexico and put the first franchise outside the country in Toronto in 1993. Last year the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship. The NBA's games and programming are televised and streamed in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages, and it offers fans 19 international online destinations.
Stern also oversaw the creation of the WNBA and successfully fended off the competition with a rival women's basketball league.
Since leaving the league the 74-year-old Stern had been investing in several start-up companies including SportsCastr.Live, a streaming video platform that allowed users to call live games themselves or hear announcers of their choosing.
He had also invested in Overtime, a smartphone app that allows for users to record, edit and share short-form sports video content.
FOX Business' Thomas Barrabi and James Leggate contributed to this report.