NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK -- David Stern, NBA Commissioner since Feb. 1, 1984, announced Thursday he will step down Feb. 1, 2014, and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver unanimously was chosen to succeed him.
Widely regarded as one of the best commissioners in all of sports, Stern turned basketball into a multi-billion dollar global business after the NBA had struggled to find its place on the sports landscape more than three decades ago.
"It's been a great run," Stern said. "It'll continue for another 15 months. The league is in terrific condition."
Silver taking over is no surprise; he was Stern's choice from the start.
"One of the things I did best was provide a successor," Stern said.
Stern's influence has been near and far, managing all aspects of on- and off-court competition, marketing and business endeavors.
The league's revenues are projected to be $5 billion this season with strong ticket sales, TV deals and global business initiatives using a variety of traditional and digital platforms.
Stern oversaw expansion with teams going into Charlotte, Minnesota, Miami and Vancouver and relocation that put teams in Memphis, New Orleans, Brooklyn, Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Los Angeles.
The rise in player salaries has been curbed because of the rookie salary scale and soft salary cap,
Stern has raised the profile of the league's charitable efforts, such as NBA Cares and Basketball Without Borders.
The NBA has become a global game on and off the court, with foreign players rising to stardom in the NBA. NBA programming is available in more than 200 countries and in 47 languages.
Stern has adapted to changes, and the NBA is a pro sports leader in social media with more than 270 million "likes" and "followers" on Facebook and Twitter.
Stern said he knew six months ago that Feb. 1, 2014, would be the date he would step down -- and that Silver was right man for job.
Silver, in acknowledging his future role, praised Stern as being the best commissioner "of all time."
"What an honor to be in this position," Silver said. "I'm honored, thrilled and will do my absolute best to grow this league."
Stern, in his stewardship, transformed the league, as it distanced itself from fans' ambivalence, weak TV deals and minor sponsorships and endorsements.
Stern helped usher in an era of professional basketball in the USA - first as outside counsel with prominent sports law firm Proskauer Rose in the late 1960s and 1970s, then as the NBA's general counsel under Commissioner Larry O'Brien.
While much of Stern's record as commissioner is sterling, there are low points. Chief among them: former referee Tim Donaghy's felony conviction in the gambling scandal; the infamous brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons; labor stoppages in 1998-99 and 2011 which resulted in shortened seasons and the Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton gun incident inside the Washington Wizards' locker room.
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