By ALAN SMASON
David Stern, the former NBA commissioner, succumbed to a brain hemorrhage on January 1, 2020, for which he had undergone emergency surgery more than two weeks earlier. He was 77.
Stern had been reportedly dining at Brasserie 8 1/2, a New York City classic French restaurant on December 12 when he suddenly collapsed. The gray-haired Stern was immediately rushed to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, where he had been under critical care ever since.
Stern’s time as NBA Commissioner stretched across 30 years, from 1984 to 2014. He is credited with taking a shaky financial organization and transforming it into one with tremendous growth and success. During his tenure, the NBA increased from 23 to 30 teams. The average worth of an NBA franchise when he began his term of office was about $20 million and at his retirement the average appraisal had ballooned to $634 million, an increase of 32-fold.
Stern was responsible for getting New Orleans its present NBA Franchise. After the New Orleans Jazz with its star “Pistol” Pete Maravich moved to Utah, New Orleans was determined as a prime location for expansion of the league. Stern oversaw the transfer of the Charlotte Hornets franchise to the Crescent City following dissension and alienation between the city of Charlotte and team owner George Shinn. The New Orleans Hornets played part of their games in Oklahoma City following the destruction connected to Hurricane Katrina, but they returned to the New Orleans Arena to continue play.
After minority parner Gary Chouest attempted to buy out Shinn’s stake in the team, Stern orchestrated an unusual purchase by the league. The NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets for a reported $300 million.
In 2013, Saints professional football team owner Tom Benson purchased the Hornets from the league for $338 million, becoming one of the few team owners with both an NFL and an NBA franchise in the same city. He later renamed the team as the New Orleans Pelicans.
Stern retired the following year in 2014, passing the commissioner’s title to another Jewish figure, Adam Silver.
A member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Stern was also inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Stern, a native of Teaneck, New Jersey, is survived by his wife Dianne and their two sons, all of whom lived in Scarsdale, New York.
(JTA contributed to this story.)