NEW YORK — David Stern, the basketball-loving lawyer who took the NBA around the world during 30 years as its longest-serving commissioner and oversaw its growth into a global powerhouse, died Wednesday. He was 77.

Mr. Stern suffered a brain hemorrhage on Dec. 12 and underwent emergency surgery. The league said he died with his wife, Dianne, and their family at his bedside.

Mr. Stern had been involved with the NBA for nearly two decades before he became its fourth commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984. By the time he left his position in 2014 — he wouldn’t say or let league staffers say “retire,” because he never stopped working — a league that fought for a foothold before him had grown to a more than $5 billion a year industry and made NBA basketball perhaps the world’s most popular sport after soccer.

“Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time, but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation,” said Adam Silver, who followed Stern as commissioner. “Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration.”

Thriving on good debate in the boardroom and good games in the arena, Mr. Stern would say one of his greatest achievements was guiding a league of mostly black players that was plagued by drug problems in the 1970s to popularity with mainstream America.

He had a hand in nearly every initiative to do that, from the drug testing program, to the implementation of the salary cap, to the creation of a dress code.

But for Mr. Stern, it was always about “the game,” and his morning often included reading about the previous night’s results in the newspaper — even after technological advances he embraced made reading NBA.com easier than ever.

Mr. Stern oversaw the birth of seven new franchises and the creation of the WNBA and NBA Development League, now the G League, providing countless opportunities to pursue careers playing basketball in the United States that previously weren’t available.

Not bad for a guy who once thought his job might be a temporary one.

He had been the league’s outside counsel from 1966 to ‘78 and spent two years as the NBA’s general counsel, figuring he could always go back to his legal career if he found things weren’t working out after a couple of years.

He never did.

After serving as the NBA’s executive vice president of business and legal affairs from 1980-84, he replaced Larry O’Brien as commissioner.

Overlooked and ignored only a few years earlier, when it couldn’t even get its championship round on live network TV, the NBA’s popularity would quickly surge thanks to the rebirth of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry behind Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, followed by the entrance of Michael Jordan just a few months after Mr. Stern became commissioner.

Under Stern, the NBA would play nearly 150 international games and be televised in more than 200 countries and territories, and in more than 40 languages, and the NBA Finals and All-Star weekend would grow into international spectacles.

The 2010 All-Star game drew more than 108,000 fans to Dallas Cowboys Stadium, a record to watch a basketball game.

A graduate of Rutgers University and Columbia Law School, he was dedicated to public service, launching the NBA Cares program in 2005 that donated more than $100 million to charity in five years.

He was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

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