David Stern announced he will step down as commissioner of the NBA on Feb. 1, 2014. Stern’s replacement will be Adam Silver, the current deputy commissioner. Earlier this year, Stern made it clear he was planning to retire and threw his support behind Silver, calling him a “spectacular choice” and a “first-rate, top-of-the-class executive.”
Stern, 70, became commissioner in 1984, succeeding Larry O’Brien. He is widely credited with increasing the popularity of the NBA in the 1990s and 2000s. He has been known as a tough negotiator, as evidenced in last year’s lockout that lasted 149 days but resulted in a labor deal that will save NBA owners some $3 billion in player salaries and benefits over 10 years (either side can opt out of the deal in 2017).
Silver, 50, has worked for the NBA for 20 years, and rose to deputy commissioner in 2006, replacing Russ Granik. He spent the previous eight years as the president and chief operating officer of NBA Entertainment. In 2003, Silver was named to Time magazine and CNN’s list of Global Business Influentials. He has also been named to The Sporting News’ “100 Most Powerful People in Sports” on multiple occasions.
“I decided that things are in great shape, and there’s an organization in place that will ultimately be led by Adam, that is totally prepared to take it to the next level,” Stern said in a news conference last week.
“The opportunities for this league are limitless, truly limitless, and I’m honored, thrilled,” Silver said. He went on to praise Stern as a chief executive “who turned sports leagues into brands” and “one of the great business leaders of our time.”
The NBA has added seven franchises since Stern became commissioner. Its television revenue has increased more than 40-fold in that time, to nearly $1.3 billion. The average player salary has grown to $5 million, from $250,000 in 1984. The league now has offices in 15 global markets.
Stern grew up in a Jewish family in Teaneck, NJ. He attended Rutgers University and later Columbia Law School. He was admitted to the bar in New York in 1966. Stern has contributed to many Democratic Party candidates since becoming NBA commissioner. In September 2010, he donated $1,000 to support a group opposing California’s Prop 23, which would delay enactment of the state’s landmark environmental law.
Stern is married to Dianne Bock Stern, and they have two adult sons. He chose Feb. 1, 2014 as the date to step down because it is the same date that he became commissioner in 1984. By the time he steps down, he will have become the longest-tenured commissioner in professional sports history, surpassing Pete Rozelle, who retired as NFL commissioner in November 1989, two months shy of 30 years.