How the NBA changed during David Stern’s tenure as commissioner

David Stern stepped down Saturday after three decades as NBA commissioner. A look at the ups and downs (and sweeping changes) throughout the sport since he took over the post from Larry O'Brien on Feb. 1, 1984.


Stern helped grow the NBA into a global brand during his tenure, and it led to increased salaries and television money for the sport.

Changing game

The NBA's brand exploded under Stern's watch, and the league became more stylish. As basketball spread to new parts of the globe, it brought players from other countries.

Evolution of the uniform
    • Mid 1980s
    • Early 1990s
    • Late 1990s
    • Early 2000s
    • Today
Mid 1980s

Teams tested V-neck collars and shorter, tighter shorts. Starting in 1986, all jerseys sported the NBA logo.

Early 1990s

As jerseys became big sellers, the NBA allowed custom uniform sizes. Michael Jordan popularized big, baggy shorts.

Late 1990s

Wide-shoulder tops were tried out as jerseys became more lightweight and shorts continued to get longer.

Early 2000s

Accessories became all the rage. Things likeheadbands, compression layers, and padding were more common.


The Warriors were the first team to wear a long-sleeved jersey in 2013, and several other teams have followed suit.

Notable imports from international leagues

1989: Drazen Petrovic (Croatia), Vlade Divac (Serbia)

1993: Dino Radja (Croatia), Toni Kukoc (Croatia)

1995: Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania)

1998: Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)

2001: Pau Gasol (Spain), Tony Parker (France)

2002: Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Yao Ming (China)

2003: Darko Milicic (Serbia)

2006: Andrea Bargnani (Italy)

2011: Ricky Rubio (Spain)

Team movement
*Charlotte had the expasion Hornets in 1988 and the expansion Bobcats in 2004.
Labor disputes, scandals

1986: Stern gave a lifetime ban to John Drew for substance abuse. Others later punished for this included Micheal Ray Richardson and Roy Tarpley.

1995: NBA had its first lockout from July 1 to Sept. 12. No games were missed.

1996: Second lockout came July 10 and lasted a few hours.

1997: Golden State's Latrell Sprewell was suspended 68 games without pay for choking coach P.J. Carlesimo.

1998: Lockout spanned July 1-Jan. 20 and shortened the 1998-99 season to 50 games.

2004: A Pacers-Pistons brawl spilled into the stands in an ugly scene that saw nine players suspended.

2007: Referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to charges of gambling on games. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

2010: Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton were suspended for a gun incident in Wizards locker room.

2011: Lockout from July 1-Dec. 8 forced a 66-game season.

SOURCES:, Dime Magazine,

Luke Knox/Globe staff

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