The current NBA commissioner says his predecessor, David Stern, turned the basketball league into "a truly global brand." But the legacy that Stern, who died Wednesday at age 77, should be most hailed for is his support of Magic Johnson after the basketball great was diagnosed with HIV, writes Jeff Zillgitt at USA Today. During his 30 years at the helm of the NBA, "Stern's most humane, poignant act" was his embrace, both "figuratively and literally," of Johnson after his Nov. 7, 1991, announcement. Many in the league didn't know much about HIV and were fearful Johnson would transmit it to other players were he allowed to continue playing, so Stern hired a top AIDS researcher to educate them. He once said he ultimately realized "this was an opportunity to educate the world and to calm down the fear that anyone with HIV should be treated like a leper."
As Johnson himself tweeted, "David Stern was such a history maker. When I announced in 1991 I had HIV, people thought they could get the virus from shaking my hand. When David allowed me to play in the 1992 All Star Game in Orlando and then play for the Olympic Dream Team, we were able to change the world." Johnson had retired after his announcement but considered rejoining the league after the Olympics; he ended up deciding against it due to the ongoing controversy. But by 1995, he was able to come back for 32 games before retiring "on my own terms," as he said at the time. Writes Zillgitt, "He left on his terms because of Stern. ... We often saw Stern the negotiator, marketer, and salesman. He was also a humanitarian, and never was that more apparent than when he supported Magic Johnson." Read his full piece. (Read more David Stern stories.)