How did David Stern change the NBA?

David Stern, who served as the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1984 to 2014, was a transformative leader who forever altered the trajectory of the league. His vision and leadership led to the NBA becoming one of the premier sports leagues in the world. In this article, we will discuss how David Stern changed the NBA and the legacy he leaves behind.

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Marketing the NBA

When Stern took over as commissioner in 1984, the NBA was struggling with low ratings and a lack of national appeal. Stern changed that by aggressively marketing the NBA and its stars. He made sure that the NBA was featured prominently on television, in newspapers, and on radio. He also negotiated lucrative deals with corporate sponsors and helped the NBA launch new products such as apparel and video games.

Global Expansion

Stern was a firm believer in the power of globalization and was determined to expand the NBA’s reach to new markets. He created the NBA International League, which allowed teams to play in other countries. He also opened NBA offices in China and Europe, and helped facilitate the expansion of the league into new countries.

Fostering the Growth of Basketball

Stern was passionate about the growth and development of basketball. He invested heavily in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), which was launched in 1997. He also spearheaded the NBA’s Youth Basketball Program and the NBA Cares Foundation, which works to help disadvantaged youth.

Creating the NBA Brand

Stern was a master at creating the NBA brand. He created the iconic NBA logo and uniform design, and he implemented the now-famous NBA draft lottery system in 1985. He also negotiated the first-ever television contract with NBC in 1989, which opened the door to future deals with other networks.

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Growing the NBA’s Popularity

Stern was instrumental in growing the NBA’s popularity. He introduced the concept of NBA All-Star weekend and the 3-point shot. He also negotiated the first-ever collective bargaining agreement with the players in 1988, which helped to stabilize the league’s finances and bring in new revenues.

Expanding the League’s Reach

Stern aggressively sought to expand the NBA’s reach. He helped launch the NBA’s first-ever digital platform,, in 1995. He also helped launch the NBA’s first-ever international television network, NBA TV, in 1999.

Creating the Salary Cap

One of Stern’s most important contributions to the NBA was the introduction of the salary cap in 1984. The salary cap helped to keep team payrolls in check and ensure parity between teams. It also helped teams to remain competitive and gave players more bargaining power.

Improving Player Safety

Stern was a strong advocate for player safety and introduced a number of measures to protect the health of NBA players. He implemented a drug testing policy in 1983, and he mandated the wearing of protective goggles in 1987. He also implemented a rule that banned players from entering the game after being fouled, which reduced the chances of injury.


David Stern was a transformative figure in the NBA and his legacy will live on for years to come. His vision for the league was ahead of its time and helped to make the NBA the global powerhouse that it is today. He was a leader who was not afraid to make bold decisions, and his influence on the NBA is still felt today.

Keywords: David Stern, NBA, globalization, marketing, salary cap, player safety, collective bargaining agreement.