Behrens told me this week: "David has always championed the idea that the NBA, in fact all sports, should use the power of its brand and the celebrity of its players to bring about positive social change. He's pushed our staff and our teams to think about the impact we could have on communities where we do business and to understand that the values of our game provide teaching moments that don't exist with other businesses. It's been an extraordinary experience to see that vision take shape with our programs and partnerships, and with Adam [Silver]'s continued leadership in this space, our work can only get stronger."
The threads of Stern's influence continued to grow and support other efforts. After his playing career ended, Mutombo became the NBA's global ambassador in 2009. No other league has a global ambassador.
I recently went to South Africa for the funeral of Mandela. I chose to view the funeral from the youth center in Kliptown in Soweto where hundreds of children are served by the facility created by the NBA. It is an oasis in one of the poorest towns in South Africa where running sewage dribbles through the streets lined with shanties. I went there partially to see the legacy of the NBA's gift of the youth center, which I had first visited in 2008 with Basketball Without Borders. Six years later, it is thriving as the lifeline for the 200-plus young people who otherwise would have no hope for any kind of meaningful future.
There cannot be anyone involved in big-time sports who does not know something about Stern's life work. But I think that an ultimate test of his legacy is that 11-year-old girls in Kliptown not only know his name but also are grateful for what he contributed to their lives. I know I am grateful for what he contributed to my life's work of trying to use the power of sport to make this a better, more equitable and more inclusive world.