Lawyer Biography: David Stern Career

NBA Commissioner David Stern Biography


David Joel Stern is the longest-running commissioner in the history of the National Basketball Association. As head of the popular North American sports league since 1984, he is credited with growing the NBA into the overwhelmingly popular and global brand that it is today. 


David Stern was born on September 22, 1942 in New York City, New York. He grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey in a Jewish family, and is a graduate of Teaneck High School. Stern attended Rutgers University. He graduated as a history student in 1963, graduated from Columbia Law School in 1966, and was admitted to the bar in New York later that year after passing the state's bar examination.

David Stern NBA Career


David Stern began working in a law firm that represented the NBA after finishing at Columbia in 1966, starting what has become almost 40 years of association with the league. In 1978, Stern became the NBA's General Counsel, and by 1980 was Executive Vice President of the NBA. On February 1, 1984, Stern became the fourth Commissioner of the National Basketball Association. It was during that same season (1984-85) that four of the NBA's biggest superstars — Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton — entered the league.

It was the arrival of Michael Jordan and with it his flair, skill, marketability and Nike shoes that most influenced Stern and the NBA's new wave of popularity. 

Jordan and the two other premiere basketball legends of the 1980s, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, took the game to new heights of popularity and profit. By 2005, Stern had seen the NBA grow to 30 franchises, expand into Canada, televise games across the United States, and move into new fields and nations. The NBA now has 11 offices in cities outside the United States, is televised in 212 nations in 42 languages, and operates the Women's National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Development League under the guidance of Stern.

David Stern Controversies


Stern has been at the center of multiple controversies during his time as commissioner, with a noticeably more frequent trend in recent years.

November 19, 2004, Stern issued some of the longest suspensions in the history of American professional sports. Stern's apparent justification for the uncommonly long suspensions was the three Pacers having attacked NBA fans, as opposed to other players or NBA associates. 

Stern also received criticism in 2005 for negotiating a labor agreement that did not introduce any major change in the NBA system. Some feel that the existing "soft" salary cap is ineffective in maintaining a competitive balance between teams and holding down the escalation of player salaries. 

In season 2005-2006 Stern instituted a dress code for NBA players that met with some criticism. The new dress code was considered, by some, to be racist because it forbids hip hop fashion and urban dress. However, it should be noted that all types of clothing that are not (at least) business casual, have been banned, affecting every player of every race.

David Stern ended his 30-year reign as NBA Commissioner at January 31, 2014.

David Stern Quotes


"You walk into the playgrounds in Shanghai and Beijing, and you see youngsters who are shorter, shaking and baking and having attitude. And Jeremy Lin is going to inspire all of them."

"You will ultimately be defined by the sum total of your responses to circumstances, situations and events that you probably couldn't anticipate and indeed probably couldn't even imagine. So just keep your eyes on the course and be ready to move in different directions depending upon the crises and opportunities with which you are faced."

"Everyone knows that if you can keep on making money, everyone's happy."

"I'm not big on looking back beyond the moment in which decisions and events occur. I'm always pushing forward."

"I actually don't hope for a legacy. I think that it impedes your ability to make the hard decisions if you sit around saying, 'How will this affect my legacy?"

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