Maybe the most impactful commissioner on the Chicago Bulls franchise in NBA history, David Stern, passed away at the age of 77 on Jan. 1.
Sad news came about on New Year’s Day 2020 with the passing of the former NBA long-time commissioner David Stern at 77-years-old. Stern was in critical condition for much of December after suffering brain hemorrhaging. This is sad news for all 30 NBA teams, and basketball fans alike, including that of the Chicago Bulls.
The original news surfaced on Dec. 12 that Stern had to be taken to the hospital with hemorrhaging injuries. Updates along the way never got much better throughout the rest of the month of December.
The current NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on behalf of the league for the passing of Stern on Jan. 1.
Stern served as the NBA commissioner for three full decades, from 1984-2014. He was ushered in as the NBA commissioner in the same year that a number of legendary basketball stars came into the league. That list of players that came into the NBA in the same year that Stern became commissioner included Bulls all-time great shooting guard Michael Jordan.
Other NBA legends like Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and John Stockton, came into the league the same year as Stern too. He was the commissioner that oversaw the expansion of the game when MJ really broke through with the Bulls in the NBA. Record TV contracts and shoe deals were signed during Stern’s tenure. He and Jordan are owed a lot of the gratitude for the expansion of the game of basketball on a global level.
Moreover, Stern had a number of other notable occurrences during his 30 years as the NBA’s commissioner. He saw the addition of seven new teams, and six relocations. He was the founder of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), in 1996, and expanded the game well beyond the borders of North America.
A lot of the credit for the international growth in popularity of the NBA should go to Stern. He signed TV contracts in more than 200 countries and territories around the world and had 11 league offices opened outside of the United States.
The NBA Developmental League (NBA D-League) also came about under Stern’s watch.
On the other hand, there were also numerous conspiracies and controversies that Stern inserted himself into during his three decade-long tenure. The move of the Seattle SuperSonics from Washington to Oklahoma City (as the Thunder) is still criticized often.
In the case of the Bulls, the conspiracy theory that Stern was part of the reason why Jordan retired the first time from the Bulls had something to do with him is one that is still discussed to this day. There are always rumors that are floated that the attempt by MJ to go play baseball was actually a suspension from Sterns from his off-the-court activities.
Jordan wound up returning to the NBA during the 1994-95 season. This controversy that still largely remains unknown between Jordan and Stern has mostly gone away in the last decade, but there are still some that believe that his off-the-court activities are the reason why he ever swung a bat in a game for the minor-league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, the Birmingham Barons.
At the end of the day, Stern mostly racked up a number of impressive accomplishments during his 30-year tenure heading up the NBA. Globalization and the expansion of the game, with the WNBA and seven new teams, greatly increased the popularity of basketball.
According to a chart from Statista, the average year-by-year value of the NBA’s franchises went up significantly under Stern and Silver’s direction during the 2000’s. In 2001, the averaged value of an NBA franchise sat at $207 million. That number climbed up to $1.868 billion in 2019.
That growth value of the average NBA franchise is a testament to all the the hard work that Stern put in to expand the game of basketball globally, and get the league involved in the new realms of media. The NBA is still on the forefront of TV negotiations and global popularity with how many nationally televised games they have and how many countries they broadcast to.
It is a sad day to see Stern pass, but his memory and impact on the NBA (and the game of basketball in general) will live on in our minds. His impact on the NBA even stemmed back to a time before he was the commissioner. He was one of the lawyers/negotiators that brought together the NBA/ABA mergers in the 1960’s.