David Stern, the basketball-loving lawyer who took the NBA around the world during 30 years as its longest-serving commissioner and oversaw its growth into a global powerhouse, died Wednesday, the AP reports. He was 77. Stern suffered a brain hemorrhage on Dec. 12 and underwent emergency surgery. The league said he died with his wife, Dianne, and their family at his bedside. "The entire basketball community is heartbroken," the National Basketball Players Association said. "David Stern earned and deserved inclusion in our land of giants." Stern had been involved with the NBA for nearly 20 years before he became commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984. When he left in 2014, the NBA had become a $5 billion-plus industry, second perhaps only to soccer in worldwide popularity.
"Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand," said Adam Silver, who followed Stern as commissioner and called him "one of the most influential business leaders of his generation." Thriving on good debate in the boardroom and good games in the arena, Stern would say one of his greatest achievements was guiding a league of mostly black players that was plagued by drug problems in the 1970s to popularity with mainstream America. He had a hand in nearly every initiative to do that, from the drug testing program, to the implementation of the salary cap, to the creation of a dress code. But for Stern, it was always about "the game," which he usually read about in the morning paper—even after technological advances he embraced made reading NBA.com easier than ever.
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