David Joel Stern (born September 22, 1942) is a Jewish-American lawyer and has been the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) since 1984. Born in New York City, David Stern grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, and is a graduate of Teaneck High School. Stern attended Rutgers University where he became an active member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He graduated as a dean's-list history student in 1963 and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1966. Stern has served on the Rutgers University Board of Overseers and currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Columbia University.
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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. This was the same year 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 greatness. 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 also makes sure that all U.S. states with NBA franchises and the province of Ontario, are not to have casinos and lotteries that distribute NBA basketball betting. He wishes his league to simply be a "fun league".
Stern has been derided by analysts who claim that by instituting strict penalties for rules violations, he has made the NBA into a nanny state. Outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has constantly poked fun at the record fines he has amassed for what he considers minor infractions. Following an infamous brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons on November 19, 2004, Stern issued some of the longest suspensions in the history of American professional sports. However, in Stern's defense, it must also be noted that the three Pacers who received the longest suspensions all fought with fans. Ron Artest (suspended for the season) and Stephen Jackson (suspended for 30 games) both went into the stands to fight with fans. Jermaine O'Neal (suspended for 25 games, reduced to 15 on appeal) punched a fan who had gone onto the court, but O'Neal never entered the stands. By contrast, Ben Wallace, who received a suspension of 6 games, fought only with opposing players on the court.
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. Stern had said he wanted to play it safe and avoid a lockout like that seen in the 1998–1999 season, but he was faulted by some for not taking advantage of the momentum from the NHL lockout settlements where the National Hockey League emerged with a new and strict "hard" salary cap.
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