WASHINGTON – Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were among the legends of the NBA, stunned by the death of former league commissioner David Stern on Wednesday after a brain hemorrhage he had suffered in the past month.
The 77-year-old star was a commissioner for 30 years before retiring in 2014 and overseeing the NBA's growth from a league whose final tournament was not broadcast live on television to a global sports empire with worldwide following and talent.
"The world has lost a legend today," said retired NBA star Charles Barkley. "He is simply the greatest commissioner in sports history."
Johnson, a five-time Los Angeles Lakers NBA champion who revealed in 1991 that he was infected with the HIV virus, tweeted that he was "devastated" by Stern's death, and added: "I loved and respected him. "
“David Stern was such a historian. When I announced that I had HIV in 1991, people thought they could get the virus if they shook my hand. When David allowed me to participate in the All Star Game in Orlando in 1992 and then play for the Olympic Dream Team, we were able to change the world. "
The current Lakers superstar LeBron James posted an homage to Stern on his Instagram page.
"Your vision to make our game WORLDWIDE was a vision that only you could achieve," wrote James. "You did just that. Make our game the greatest sport in the world! It was an honor to meet you personally. "
Stern became the fourth commissioner for the NBA in 1984 and initiated the league's development into corporate sponsorship and global markets.
"Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today," said six-time NBA champion Jordan in a statement. “He led the league through turbulent times and made it an international phenomenon that opened up opportunities that only a few could have imagined before.
"His vision and leadership gave me the global stage that allowed me to be successful. Without him, I wouldn't be where I am."
Barkley recorded the average NBA player wages when Star became Commissioner at $ 200,000.
“Now the average salary is $ 7.7 million. This is due to David Stern. He was an innovator. He was a great businessman.
"We are all lucky, we had a great life because of David Stern. The money these players earn today comes from David Stern."
Stern imposed a dress code and helped create drug tests and a salary cap that annoyed some players but helped strengthen the NBA's brand and bottom line.
"I think it's important … we remember where this country was in terms of business and racial relationships," NBA star Isiah Thomas said on NBA television about Stern's early days as a boss.
"David Stern pressed this envelope to say that this game belonged to everyone, not just a few."
Thomas said Stern had created an environment that allowed current NBA commissioner Adam Silver to assert himself last year when China was delighted at the tweet by an NBA executive who supported protesters in Hong Kong.
“It gave Adam Silver the opportunity to assert himself against another country today and to say: 'No, here we are. That's what the NBA is about, "said Thomas.
Star "Innovator, Icon"
Stern's loss is deeply felt, retired Star Guard Reggie Miller told NBA TV.
"It's a huge loss to sport in general because … he was the one who really marketed the stars," said Miller. “He found a way to relate the superstars of our game to the common fan.
“David Stern was a real fan of the game and it showed in his work. This game is now global not only because of it. He was a true icon of the sport. "
Scottie Pippen, the retired Chicago Bulls legend, described Stern as "an innovator who has helped make our sport a global game, and its impact will never be forgotten."
"You will be missing forever," tweeted Spanish NBA star Pau Gasol.
"The best commissioner who ever made it," tweeted four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal.
"The league would not be what it is today without you," tweeted NBA championship leader James Harden from Houston. "The entire NBA family and fans around the world will miss you."
Steve Kerr, coach of Golden State Warriors, said Stern had “influenced the game more than any other non-player in the history of the NBA.
“David Stern really led the league expansion. His vision was to get the league on course today. We are all indebted to him. "
Don't miss the latest news and information.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and others over 70 titles. Share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download it at 4:00 a.m. and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.