The NBA is in a much different place because of David Stern's tenure as commissioner, and the Warriors' brain trust is well-aware of his impact.
Stern, who served as commissioner from 1984 until passing the reins to Adam Silver on Feb. 1, 2014, died Wednesday as a result of a brain hemorrhage he suffered late last month. He was 77.
"Well, I think David Stern made a bigger impact on the game than any non-player in the history of the NBA," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in a video the team published on Twitter on Wednesday. "When I think about -- when he took over as commissioner in the early '80s -- where the league was ... and to think where it is now, David Stern really led the expansion of the league, and he had the vision to set the league on a course to where it is today."
Steve Kerr on the legacy of Commissioner Emeritus David Stern. pic.twitter.com/kUWpEbfBr2— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 1, 2020
Formerly the league's executive vice president, Stern succeeded Larry O'Brien at a time when the NBA still tape-delayed broadcasts of certain games. Just over six months after Stern retired, the NBA signed a national television contract with ESPN and Turner Sports worth $24 billion.
The NBA added seven teams and also created a professional women's league (WNBA) and a developmental league (G League) during Stern's reign. The league's international footprint grew exponentially under Stern's watch, as the NBA prioritized making inroads on multiple contents.
Without that global focus, it's incredibly hard to imagine an NBA executive's comments on geopolitical issues 30 years ago making international news in the manner that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's did in October when he tweeted support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese government.
Rick Welts, the Warriors' chief operating officer who worked with Stern in the NBA's league office for nearly 20 years, said: "it's really hard to imagine a world without David Stern."
"His 30-year term as commissioner [and] his work before really created the foundation that we have enjoyed today as the successful NBA that we are," Welts said. "For me personally, we're talking about somebody who was my mentor. I used to joke that my greatest success in my life was directly reporting to David Stern for 17 years and living to tell about it because it was some days an amazing challenge.
"I had a complicated relationship with him, like everybody else, but at the end of the day, he was a friend. He was a mentor, and his inspiration, creative genius, innovation, ingenuity are the things that really created the NBA that we know today."