Preserving David Stern’s Legacy by Preserving the Money

January 23, 2020

By Drew Hawkins

I had the honor of attending Tuesday’s memorial service for David Stern at Radio City Music Hall. Along with several thousand others in attendance, we were treated to heartfelt and tender remarks for a man who was tough as nails and whose impact on the world had reaches far beyond the hardwoods.

Hard-nosed genius, progressive visionary, iron-fisted innovator, revered mentor – no matter the descriptor, they all mean David Stern — the shepherd who dedicated 30 years to propelling the NBA to the multi-billion-dollar titan many would not have predicted when he assumed the commissioner’s seat in 1984.

Stern was a lawyer first with a penchant for marketing. He combined the disciplines of both in his role to bolster the league’s business model and rehab the reputation it had at his appointment as a drug-riddled, money-losing entity with an anemic fan base.

By the time Stern handed the reins to Adam Silver in 2014, he had transformed the league and economics of sports by fusing the worlds of marketing, media and pop culture with basketball. As he rehabbed the business and persona of the NBA, corporate sponsorship grew and that simply meant more money for marketing – not just teams, but star players. What followed next was the transformation of those star players to celebrities and to all-out brands. It became a sport that celebrated (and profited from) individuality and personality – a major differentiator in the broader world of sports and, some would argue, one of the reasons for its now global fan base and plumped up player paychecks.

According to a NY times article published on January 8, 1985, just 11 players were “drawing more than $1 million” per year at that time. Compare that to today’s players and the facts are undeniable; Stern’s impact and genius are in every zero on those checks. Steph Curry is the highest paid at $40 million plus with nearly 500/517 players behind him making $1 million or more, as detailed by ESPN.  Generating such wealth for a new generation of players is just one sizeable chunk of what makes Stern’s career legendary and him a phenom in his own right.

Because Edyoucore’s mission is to educate individuals in the sports and entertainment industry on making more informed business and lifestyle decisions to help better protect their earnings for a lifetime, we are hopeful that conversations are taking place that will help NBA players preserve and honor Stern’s legacy through smart dialogue and planning.

Stern made crazy wealth a dream for the generations of players to come, it’s now almost a requirement to make the money last a lifetime. I know it would have been what Stern wanted. It’s not just smart but it makes for better ambassadors of the sport and that makes for a great long-term marketing strategy. Right up his alley.

A simple way to look at it would be to refer to how Adam Silver recalled Stern’s words to him in 2014 as he forwarded the commissionership: “Don’t screw it up!”

Note taken. Rest in peace, Mr. Stern.


Drew Hawkins is the CEO and Founder of Edyoucore — a financial education company whose mission is to teach athletes and entertainers through interactive financial education sessions and unbiased, customized consultation services to help guide financial, business and lifestyle decisions.