NEW YORK (AP) — David Stern had basketball as a passion and law as a profession, one he figured he could return to if a job at the NBA didn’t work out. He never did.

Instead he went to Europe, Asia and plenty of other places around the world, bringing with him a league that was previously an afterthought in the U.S. and turning it into a global powerhouse.

Stern, who spent 30 years as the NBA’s longest-serving commissioner and one of the best in sports history, died Wednesday. He was 77.

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.

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.

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