SBD/October 26, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

David Stern To Step Down Feb. '14, Announces Silver As Successor For NBA Commissioner

Stern, by stepping down, will have been the longest tenured pro sports commissioner
NBA Commissioner David Stern on Thursday announced that he will step down from his position on Feb. 1, 2014, a date that marks his 30th anniversary as the league's top exec. Stern will be succeeded by league Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver, who was unanimously chosen by the league BOG as the next commissioner. Stern said, "It's been a great run. ... The league is in terrific condition. One of the things I did best was provide a successor." Silver said, "I think David is the one who turned sport leagues into brands" (Mult., 10/25). In N.Y., Howard Beck writes the announcement “was not surprising: Stern had telegraphed his intentions several times over the last year, with only the timeline left unsettled.” Stern said, “I decided that things are in great shape, and there’s an organization in place that will ultimately be led by Adam, that is totally prepared to take it to the next level.” He said that the time “was right to step away, citing the NBA’s improved profitability and competitiveness, its growing influence around the globe and the strength of its digital platforms.” He also said that he would “continue to advise the 50-year-old Silver and the owners even after he relinquishes his title.” Stern: “I’m stepping down, I’m not retiring.” Beck notes by the time he steps down, he will have become the “longest-tenured commissioner in professional sports history, surpassing Pete Rozelle, who retired as NFL commissioner in November 1989, two months shy of 30 years” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26). Stern said that he “decided on his plans about six months ago, having guided the league through a lockout that ended last December.” The AP’s Brian Mahoney noted Stern “didn't want to leave until the labor deal was completed or until he was confident there was a successor in place, and both are done” (AP, 10/25).

INSIDE THE DECISION: Stern revealed his plans to retire at the NBA BOG’s executive session at 4:30pm ET Wednesday afternoon. He laid out his plan to retire and discussed his transition plan to Silver. The two then left the room and were called back into the executive session within an hour. A dinner and the BOG’s general session followed the executive session Wednesday night and on Thursday, the BOG unanimously approved Silver as the next NBA Commissioner (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal). Below are some key dates from Stern's tenure:

  • February '84: David Stern elected as NBA Commissioner
  • '88-89: League expands with addition of Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat
  • '89-90: League expands with addition of Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic
  • '95-96: League adds Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies
  • '96: Oversees creation of WNBA
  • July '98-January '99: NBA Lockout causes 50-game schedule
  • '01: NBA creates NBA Development League
  • '02: Charlotte Hornets relocate to New Orleans
  • November '04: Brawl between Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers; Stern suspends nine players without pay for a total of 146 games, included Ron Artest who is suspended for the remaining NBA season.
  • October '05: Stern announces creation of NBA Cares July
  • '06: Adam Silver is named Deputy Commissioner
  • June '07: NBA signs TV deals through the '15-16 season with ABC, ESPN, and Turner for $930M annually
  • July '07: NBA rocked by Tim Donaghy referee gambling scandal
  • January '08: Announces formation of NBA China entity
  • '08: Seattle SuperSonics move to Oklahoma City and begin play as Thunder
  • November '11: Signs new CBA ending lockout that shortens season to 66 games. League also completes expanded revenue sharing system.


SILVER LINING? SPORTING NEWS’ Sean Deveney wrote, “When rattling off the accomplishments and failures of Stern as commissioner, the grooming of Silver should not be overlooked.” As much as Stern “has been lampooned for his heavy-handed, dictatorial style, he has allowed his ego some respite over the last few years to make way for Silver, and that will ensure that, when the transition happens, Silver will have gotten more extensive on-the-job training than any league honcho in American sports” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/25).

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