David Stern confirmed on Thursday that he will step down as commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in February 2014.
Adam Silver, currently deputy commissioner of the league, will replace Stern who will leave 30 years to the day after taking the top job.
The news was confirmed after a meeting of the league's board of governors, during which Stern's retirement timeline was mapped out and Silver's promotion ratified.
"I decided that things are in great shape and there's an organisation in place that will ultimately be led by Adam that is totally prepared to take it to the next level," Stern said.
70-year old Stern is already the NBA's longest-serving commissioner and has succeeded in growing the game into a multi-billion dollar enterprise, with the addition of seven new franchises during his tenure.
He has also been at the forefront of the Women's National Basketball League (WNBL) and made the first steps in the internationalisation of the league, allowing NBA players to compete at the Olympics, developing key partnerships in China and staging exhibition and then regular-season games in Europe.
"I don't know what else to say other than to recite what I told the owners yesterday in executive session," Stern added. "I told them that it's been a great run, it will continue for another 15 months, that the league is in, I think, terrific condition."
Regarded as a man of detail and with a firm grasp on the tiller, Stern was once memorably described by veteran sports agent Donald Dell as ‘a smiling assassin’. Dell added: ‘You think he’s the nicest guy in the world, then you walk two blocks and your head falls off’.
Silver has been Stern's deputy since 2006 and was fulsome in his praise for the man he will ultimately replace.
Addressing Stern directly he said: "For all the things you've done for the NBA and for sports generally, I think there's no doubt that you'll be remembered as the best of all-time as commissioners go and you've set the standard.
"I think not even just for sports league commissioners, but for CEOs in any industry."
NBA owners will now begin work on negotiating Silver's contract, a process that is likely to be completed by the next board meeting in April.