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Tue, 30 Oct 2012 02:30 AM EDT

For the last a few years, with both actions and words, David Stern had laid the groundwork for his exit from the job he’s both controlled and outlined since 1984. He formalized it, announcing his intention to step down as the longest-tenured commissioner in professional sports.

During the NBA’s Board of Governors meetings, Stern suggested the league’s owners of his intention to step down on Feb. 1, 2014, the 30-year anniversary of his taking the job. By doing so, Stern, who turned 70 last month, stayed very much in the character he’s developed during those 30 years.

He made it obvious he’ll remain in charge of league operations for the next 15 months, mentioning that arrangement several times, and ensuring his hand-picked successor will be installed. The owners said they will begin negotiating with deputy commissioner Adam Silver to take over for Stern – a decision they came to unanimously – when that 15 months comes to an end. The plan is for Silver’s appointment to be approved at next April’s Board of Governors meeting.

“It’s been a great run. The league is in, I think, terrific condition,” Stern said. “I’d like to think I did an acceptable job. But one of the things I did best was supply a successor. I am not going anywhere in the next 15 months, but this gives us the chance to have a very smooth transition.” Football lines

This day has been foreseen for some time as Stern scaled back recent years. He has been grooming Silver, 50, to replace him for at least the past 6 years. Stern allowed Silver to take a lead role in negotiating the challenging collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union that was settled 11 months ago after a lockout wiped out 16 games of the 2011-12 season.

At the time the contract was completed, Stern expounded the deal that guaranteed at least 6 years of labor peace would outlast him as the league’s boss. Silver, who has worked for the league in various capacities for over 20 years, has long been considered the favorite to take over the job. Stern claimed he decided 6 months ago to formalize the transition process.

“The possibilities for this league are limitless,” Silver expounded. “I’m honored, thrilled and will do my absolute best to grow this league or try and do it the way David has done during the past 20 years. To the NBA family, I’m looking forward to serving you.”

Stern’s fingerprints can be found across the league’s operations, most notably on strong revenue growth, the expansion from 23 to 30 groups, the movement into small markets like Sacramento, Memphis and Oklahoma City, the spreading global reach spurred on by the league’s backing of letting its players take part of the Olympic Games, and the creation of the WNBA.

Though he works for the owners, Stern has for a while been seen as the most powerful presence in a league that relied on star players to drive ratings and cash. He was known for being strong on discipline, conscious of image and trying to protect the NBA brand.

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