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NBA commissioner David Stern to retire in 2014; Adam Silver to take top spot

David Stern has served as NBA commissioner for 28 years. (Greg Nelson/SI)

David Stern

By Ben Golliver

David Stern has reigned over the National Basketball Association as commissioner for 28 years. The end is officially in sight.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that Stern will step down on Feb. 1, 2014. also reported Stern's retirement. The Feb. 1 date holds significance for Stern: He was named commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984, meaning his run as commissioner will last exactly 30 years.

Earlier Thursday, Ken Berger of reported that NBA owners had discussed setting a "target date" for Stern's retirement at their annual Board of Governors meetings in New York.

The New York Timesreported Thursday that deputy commissioner Adam Silver was unanimously approved by the NBA's Board of Governors as Stern's successor.

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, outgoing chairman of the Board of Governors, confirmed those reports after the league's meeting in New York. Stern and Silver then held a joint press conference to discuss the transition.

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"I like to think I did an adequate job," Stern told reporters. "I could not be happier sitting here to know that I'll be succeeded by Adam. I'm not going any place for the next 15 months but this gives us the opportunity to work on a very, very smooth transition."

Said Silver: "I can't begin to express my gratitude for all the NBA has done for me over the last 20 years. ... The opportunities for this league are limitless, truly limitless. I'll do my absolute best to grow this league and this industry."

[Photo Gallery: The NBA under David Stern]

In recent years, Stern coyly dodged questions about when he would hang up his wingtips. At the same time, Silver has taken on a more public role, joining Stern as a lead negotiator during the 2011 lockout and at the NBA's "state of the union" press conference during 2012 All-Star Weekend in Orlando.

"There's no doubt you'll be remembered as the best of all time as commissioners go," Silver told his boss. "You've set the standard, not just for sports league commissioners, but for CEOs in any industry."

During his Feb. 19 address in Orlando, Stern announced that he would present Silver to the NBA's Board of Governors as his hand-picked choice to be his successor, although he did not specify a timeline.

"One of the things that a good CEO does, and I try to be a good CEO, is provide his board with a spectacular choice for its successor, and I think I've done that, and that's Adam.  And that's ultimately if I had the decision, if I were doing it myself, he would be the commissioner.  But as I said before, the board will make that decision."

"He's a first‑rate top‑of‑the‑class executive, not just sports executive, but if you wanted to be a little bit broader, you could say media and sports executive.  If you want to go broader, you could go international.  If you wanted to go broader, you could do all kinds of things."

Stern, 70, joined the NBA as outside counsel in 1966. He then worked his way up to commissioner, taking over for Larry O'Brien in 1984. Stern has overseen the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird 1980s, the Michael Jordan 1990s, the Kobe Bryant/LeBron James 2000s and, along the way, has been a driving force of the game's global expansion. During his tenure, the NBA has added seven franchises, the WNBA and the D-League. It's also endured two lockouts and a betting scandal involving referee Tim Donaghy.