3 Reasons Business Leaders Worship the NBA’s David Stern

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David Stern, 71, is one of those mad geniuses occupying the upper stratosphere of the business world who is surrounded by as much respect as he is controversy. Having assumed office in February 1984, Stern has served as commissioner of the National Basketball Association for nearly three decades. During that time, he moved the NBA from the periphery of society right to the heart of American culture. He served as commissioner during the organization’s greatest phase of growth, overseeing the creation of the Women’s National Basketball Association, expansion into international markets, and the creation of seven new teams.

It wasn’t all sunshine and happiness during Stern’s tenure, though. Stern’s career saw four NBA lockouts and numerous controversies, some of which were well-handled and some of which were not. The second year he was in office, for example, theories circulated that Stern rigged the draft lottery, intentionally picking the New York Knicks, conveniently the largest television market.

More recently, in November, Stern was accused by Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski of putting the appearances of the league over the realities it faces. The criticism came after Stern became angry with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who sat out four starters in a nationally televised away game against the Miami Heat. Stern called the action a ”a disservice to the league and the fans” and fined the team $250,000.

But Stern’s reputation — good or bad — extends beyond the walls of the NBA and into the world of business at large. Stern will be retiring in February, and in light of the news, Bloomberg reached out to business leaders from all walks, ranging from JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon to Google’s Eric Schmidt, and drew a compelling biography of Stern the businessman. Here are some of the traits that made him an effective commissioner.

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