Stern spent three decades as NBA commissioner and guided the league to global popularity.

By Marc Brodsky

Featured photo courtesy of Noam Galai/Getty Images

(JTA) — David Stern, who in three decades as NBA commissioner guided the league from financial distress to become a multibillion-dollar global enterprise, died Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. He was 77.

Stern had undergone emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage in mid-December after collapsing at a New York City restaurant.

He served as commissioner of the National Basketball Association from 1984 to 2014, increasing its popularity by pushing the individual talents of such all-time greats as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. During his tenure, the league expanded by seven teams and six teams relocated. Stern also contributed to the founding of the WNBA, which had its inaugural season in 1997.

“David took over the NBA in 1984 with the league at a crossroads,” Adam Silver, his successor and also Jewish, said in a statement, according to ESPN. “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.

His foundation, the Dianne and David Stern Foundation, was worth about $135 million and gave away about $2.1 million over the past year, according to Inside Philanthropy. Jewish causes include the UJA-Federation of New York, Scarsdale Synagogue, Westchester Jewish Community Center and Anti-Defamation League.

Stern is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Stern was a friend and colleague of the late former Pistons owner Bill Davidson.

“David Stern was a giant of a man — never one to shrink from a challenge or back away from the job required of him,” said Bill’s wife, Karen, and son, Ethan Davidson, in a statement.

“The international reach of the NBA and basketball today was fueled by David’s indomitable spirit and entrepreneurial talents. We were also fortunate to see him for the mensch he was: one who showed up, always had your back, and gave all he could. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Dianne, their children and their whole family.”