David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner who helped build the league into a sports juggernaut, underwent emergency surgery on Thursday after sustaining a brain hemorrhage, the league said.
“N.B.A. Commissioner Emeritus David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage earlier today for which he underwent emergency surgery,” the league said in a statement late Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with David and his family.”
Stern, 77, was the longest-tenured commissioner in professional North American sports, serving for 30 years. When he took over in 1984, the N.B.A. was far behind Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Some of its teams were struggling, its championship was broadcast on tape delay and its popularity was limited to certain regions of the country.
Stern is credited with modernizing the marketing of the league, and increasing its appeal to corporate sponsors. He also benefited from the arrival of someone else to the league in 1984: Michael Jordan.
He also oversaw the launch of the W.N.B.A. in 1997. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
When he passed the torch to the current commissioner, Adam Silver, in 2014, the N.B.A. was a $5 billion business, its popularity booming around the world.
A lawyer by training, Stern joined the N.B.A. as counsel in 1978.
Stern had been dining in a restaurant in midtown Manhattan when he was stricken, ESPN reported.