Not far from the office where David Stern held the NBA’s highest post for three decades, legends of the game joined family and friends to honor the late commissioner at a memorial service held inside Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday, three weeks after a brain hemorrhage claimed his life.
Following a video tribute, Stern’s successor, Adam Silver, was the first on a list of speakers that also included Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Johnson’s longtime coach, Pat Riley, among others.
“David said, ‘It doesn’t matter what people think about you, but what they feel about you,’” a solemn Silver said of his mentor in front of a massive audience, according to Yahoo Sports senior NBA writer Vincent Goodwill, one of several media members in attendance. “What I felt about David, I loved him.”
Stern’s son, Eric, also spoke, mixing some borderline NSFW humor into the memorial of his father.
David Sterns son Eric after Pat Riley’s lengthy memorial speech,” Pat you went on so long I have to take a leak.”— Daniel Kaplan (@KaplanSportsBiz) January 21, 2020
Stern’s son, Eric, noted his dad didn’t talk until he was 4. He said Stern’s wife replied, “and he hasn’t shut the fuck up since.”— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) January 21, 2020
Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki and Dikembe Mutombo were reportedly among the NBA legends paying their respects. Both the Lakers and New York Knicks canceled practices in New York to allow members of both organizations to attend, according to the New York Post’s Marc Berman. Every team was believed to have been represented at the service.
“I’m going to miss my angel,” a tearful Johnson said in his eulogy, according to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears. “We all know he is the greatest commissioner to ever live, but he’s a man that stood for what is right.”
The two forged a special bond when Stern stood by Johnson’s side following his 1991 HIV diagnosis. Stern called Johnson his favorite player ever. At the commissioner’s memorial service, Johnson said Stern’s decision to allow him to play in the 1992 All-Star Game saved his life, according to Goodwill.
Other dignitaries reportedly in attendance on Tuesday included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Grammy Award-winning Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.
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