David Stern says he will retire as commissioner of the NBA on February 1, 2014, exactly 30 years after taking the job and guiding the league and its superstar players to worldwide fame.
Stern, who announced his decision at an NBA Board of Governors meeting Thursday, will be replaced by current NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
"Adam is going to take us to the next level," said new NBA board of governors chairman Peter Hart.
"Adam was a no-brainer. He has been there over 20 years. He has been involved in every aspect of the NBA. Continuing the way the NBA is growing around the world is paramount and Adam is the one who can do it."
Stern joined the NBA as its general counsel in 1978 and became an executive vice president in 1980. He replaced Larry O'Brien as commissioner in 1984.
"It has been a great run and it will continue for another 15 months," said Stern. "The league is in terrific condition.
"I would like to think that I did an adequate job, but one of the things I did best was to provide a successor ... that will be able to take things to the next level."
The NBA expanded from 23 to 30 clubs during Stern's tenure but made huge leaps in global popularity after NBA talent began playing in the Olympics starting with the 1992 Barcelona gold medal US "Dream Team" of superstars that featured Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.
Stern took charge as the league enjoyed a growth boom based upon college stars Larry Bird and Magic Johnson taking their rivalry to the NBA, Bird with the Boston Celtics and Johnson with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 1990s brought Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan and his six NBA crowns while the NBA garnered global attention from Olympic success, a marketing push that today sees the NBA popular across Asia, Africa and Europe and elite talent from every continent coming to test their skills for NBA clubs.
"I can't begin to express my gratitude for what the NBA has done for me over the past 20 years," Silver said. "What an honor to be in this position. The opportunities for this league are limitless."
Silver played a key role in helping league owners make a deal with players to reach a 10-year collective bargaining agreement last December and end the fourth lockout of Stern's tenure with a 50-50 revenue split between owners and players.
Silver joined the NBA in 1992 and was president of NBA Entertainment for more than eight years before becoming deputy commissioner to Stern in 2006.