David Stern Eulogized In Emotional Memorial Service In N.Y.
An estimated crowd of 4,000-5,000 traveled to Radio City Music Hall today to pay their respects to NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern, who died Jan 1. Nine of Stern’s friends and colleagues gave speeches -- each was about 10 minutes long and spoke to a different aspect of Stern’s life. Magic Johnson gave one of the most touching speeches, breaking down as he spoke of how Stern helped him in '91 when Johnson retired from the NBA after testing positive for HIV. Stern engineered to have Johnson play in the '92 NBA All-Star Game. “I’m going to miss my angel,” Johnson said, choking up. “Sometimes God puts somebody in your life, and you don’t know the reason why until something serious happens in your life. You know a true friend when something bad happens in your life. I don’t care about championships. The man was great because he understood what every individual needed and he was able to provide that.”
Val Ackerman also choked up toward the end of her speech when talking about the launch of the WNBA. “I hope historians will write that it was women’s basketball and the WNBA that did it first and blazed the trail. I hope they write that David, while always looking to deflect credit, was the most important figure in the women’s sports movement since Billie Jean King.” Other speakers included Adam Silver, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Cardozo, Rick Welts, Kathy Behrens, Pat Riley and Stern’s sons, Eric and Andrew.
A who’s who of sports business execs were in attendance, including top TV executives: ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro, Connor Schell and Burke Magnus; Turner’s Jeff Zucker and Lenny Daniels; CBS’ Sean McManus and David Berson; Fox’ Eric Shanks; and NBC’s Jeff Shell and Mark Lazarus. Others spotted by SBJ reporters included Paul Tagliabue, Don Garber, Tim Leiweke, Derek Chang, Randy Freer, John Skipper, David Levy, Russ Granik, Jeff Krolik, Ed Erhardt, Bob Gutkowski, Mitchell Modell, Buffy Filippell and Leonard Armato. Several players were in attendance, including Yao Ming, who flew in from China for the event.