PISCATAWAY, N.J. – David J. Stern, a Dean’s List history student and a Henry Rutgers Scholar at Rutgers who became the National Basketball Association’s longest-serving commissioner, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 77. A 1963 graduate of The State University of New Jersey who was inducted into the school’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1999 and served on its Board of Overseers, Stern was instrumental in the NBA’s growth into a global powerhouse.
“We are all deeply saddened by the passing of Commissioner Stern,” said Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Dianne and his family. I will forever treasure his guidance and counsel, and his humor. He was a very proud Rutgers alum. His was a remarkable life.”
Born on Sept. 22, 1942 in New York City, Stern graduated from Teaneck (N.J.) High School and was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity at Rutgers before earning his law degree from Columbia University in 1966. He initially became linked to the NBA as part of the law firm Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelsohn, which represented the league. Stern officially joined the NBA as the league’s general counsel in 1978 and succeeded Larry O’Brien as commissioner in 1984.
During his 30-year tenure, the NBA added several franchises, increased its revenues to a reported $5 billion at the time of his retirement in 2014, expanded its television exposure dramatically, launched the WNBA, and created the National Basketball Development League. His international initiative led to the televising of NBA games in more than 200 countries and 40-plus languages, and the opening of several offices in cities outside the United States. Under Stern’s leadership, the NBA and its players supported the Read to Achieve Program, child-abuse prevention, alcohol-abuse prevention, volunteerism, hunger relief and the Special Olympics.
“For 22 years, I had a courtside seat to watch David in action. He was a mentor and one of my dearest friends,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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.”
Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.