The late David Stern achieved many things during his tenure as NBA Commissioner but many forget his responsibility in creating the WNBA, a platform for female players to showcase their talents.
In his quest to expand the global reach of basketball, David Stern founded the WNBA in 1996 and provided the catalyst for an era of professional female basketball players. Names such as Lisa Leslie, Diana Taurasi, and Sue Bird, became global inspirations in the basketball community thanks to the persistence and belief of Stern.
The former commissioner, who passed away Wednesday, had an international vision for women in the sport, using his acute talent for marketing as a method to capitalise on this new wave of female athletes. The founding of the NBA is more than a mere footnote in Stern’s career as the WNBA’s impact was felt globally and, as a result of his dedication, continues to grow each year, producing All-Star players from the world over.
Stern’s image was to have the WNBA covered to the same calibre that the NBA is today and is the sole reason the league has remained strong for the past 20 years. He worked endlessly to ensure teams received coverage, even on the road.
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NBC Sports California Kings sideline reporter Kayte Hunter played six seasons in the WNBA and outlines the impact of Stern’s tenure:
“To be able to go on and later have an opportunity to get drafted into the WNBA and play six seasons there. Looking back on it, somebody like David Stern at that time, to believe that a women’s league was important, not even just for basketball fans, but for women, for young women growing up to have those types of role models.
“To be able to say, like the little boy sitting next to them in class, that they wanted to also one day play professional basketball.”
Hunter pretty much sums up Stern’s legacy, to ensure that anyone, no matter gender, sexuality or appearance, has the opportunity to step foot on court and be recognised as a professional basketball player.