No one is more responsible for making basketball a global sport than David Stern. Photo: Matt Sayles/AP Photo

WASHINGTON  No one is more responsible for making basketball a global sport than David Stern. 

Stern, the NBA commissioner from 1984-2014, died Wednesday in a New York hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage on December 12. He was 77. 

Inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, Stern oversaw the addition of seven franchises, the marketing of stars and exponential growth in player salaries and team values through TV deals and corporate partnerships. But the game's global popularity became a reality through his vision. 

"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," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. 

Stern was the driving force behind the Dream Team, which put NBA stars Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan on the international stage of the 1992 Olympics and became the foundation for a generation around the world who grew up wanting to play in the NBA. 

"He devoted his life to basketball, a sport that cannot be understood without his contribution and revolutionary ideas," Euroleague president and CEO Jordi Bertomeu said.

"He was a fundamental part of what we know as modern basketball, bringing the NBA to a global audience and unprecedented popularity." 

While Stern was commissioner, nine foreign-born players became the top overall draft pick, including Yao Ming, who opened the gateway to China. Four collected six MVP awards, including German juggernaut Dirk Nowitzki. 

Stern's global influence remains strong, as reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hails from Greece and the defending champions reside in Canada and are run by a Nigerian executive. 

"He was transcendent," Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri said. "He oversaw the expansion of our league to Canada. He knew there was basketball talent around the world and he saw opportunity for players and fans everywhere - he is a great, global giant in sports." 

EARLY RETURNS: Internationals led the first returns of All-Star fan balloting announced Thursday, with Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee leading in the Eastern Conference and Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic of Dallas atop the West.

Doncic leads all players with 1,073,957 votes, 599 more than Antetokounmpo. Cameroon natives Joel Embiid of Philadelphia and Pascal Siakam of Toronto are second and third, respectively, in East frontcourt voting. 

Boston 7-foot-5 rookie centre Tacko Fall from Senegal, who has played 11 minutes this season, is sixth among East froncourt players with 110,269 votes. 

Fan voting continues through January 20 and comprises 50 per cent of the vote, with the media and players splitting the other half. The All-Star Game is February 16 in Chicago. 

dpa