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How Did the NBA Led by David Stern Make Billions of Dollars?

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Did you know that a half-century ago, the NBA was going through tough times? People preferred baseball and football to basketball. Thus, the NBA had no chance of success. In the 1980/81 season, only 16 teams were profitable, out of 23. The finals were not broadcasted live. Moreover, viewers could not watch recorded games even in prime-time. Besides, newspapers wrote that many players did drugs.

Everything changed in 1978 when David Stern was offered a job in the NBA. The future commissioner was born in the family of an entrepreneur. His father kept a shop. However, Stern chose another profession and graduated from two universities, receiving diplomas in history and law.  But how did he, a historian by profession, succeed in making basketball profitable?! And why is he called the most important person in NBA history?

Stern’s marketing talent and commercial sense helped the NBA to reach success. He made basketball players the same world stars as football players or actors.

He was responsible not only for resolving legal issues but also for marketing, PR, negotiations with TV companies, etc. Stern also imposed restrictions on the salary fund size, making it dependent on the income from basketball activities. Such measures leveled the rich and poor clubs to some extent.

Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says, “Stern was one of the founders of modern sports marketing, one of those who used modern technologies and applied them to the league.”

Without any doubt, Stern had a clear idea of NBA development. He possessed amazing analytical and strategic thinking skills. Surprisingly, it was the historian who managed to create a huge company out of nothing. He retired at the age of 72, remaining a basketball fan as he used to.

On January 1st, 2020, David Stern passed away. He led the NBA for 30 consecutive years, from 1984 to 2014.

“David Stern was the best professional sports commissioner ever,” Heat president Pat Riley said. “What David did for the game of basketball was unparalleled. Everyone involved in the game during his tenure benefited in a massive way. I personally was one of them.”

“David Stern was the visionary and catalyst that made the NBA what it is today,” an American professional basketball coach Gregg Popovich said.

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