The NBA said that Stern's family was at his bedside at the time of his death. He succeeded Larry O'Brien as commissioner four years later.
Johnson retired prior to the 1991-92 season, but when his condition remained stable, he asked Stern if he could play in the 1992 All-Star Game since he was the leading vote-getter.
The NBA itself grew under Stern.
Stern had a hand in the creation of the WNBA and NBA Development League, now called the G League - which will have a franchise in Mexico starting with the 2020-21 season.
He became the organization's first general counsel in 1978 and was later promoted to executive vice president in charge of legal and business affairs before becoming the fourth National Basketball Association commissioner, replacing Larry O'Brien.
"For 22 years, I had a courtside seat to watch David in action", Adam Silver, Stern's successor as commissioner, said in a statement. "That's why our brand is so strong", said Johnson, who announced he was retiring because of HIV in 1991 but returned the following year at the All-Star Game with Stern's backing.
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He was fiercely protective of his players and referees when he felt they were unfairly criticized, such as when members of the Indiana Pacers brawled with Detroit fans in 2004, or when an FBI investigation in 2007 found that Tim Donaghy had bet on games he officiated, throwing the entire referee operations department into turmoil.
Such decisions are ultimately emblematic of Stern's legacy.
David Joel Stern was born September 22, 1942, in NY. He graduated from Rutgers and then obtained a law degree from Columbia.
Stern is inarguably one of the most important figures in the history of professional basketball.
Stern was the commissioner of the NBA from 1984 through 2014, presiding over a period of huge growth for professional basketball at a time in which its popularity was significantly lower than it is today.
After leaving his position as commissioner, Stern stayed busy travelling overseas on the league's behalf, doing public speaking and consulting. Their son Eric is a political operative and their son Andrew is a real estate developer.
Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.