David Stern to be inducted into Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in '21

Pierce: The game wouldn't be where it is today without Stern (2:42)

In January, Rachel Nichols, Paul Pierce and Zach Lowe reflected on David Stern's death at the age of 77 and what he meant to the NBA. (2:42)

Longtime NBA commissioner David Stern, who was instrumental in launching the WNBA in 1997, will be posthumously inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame next year in Knoxville, Tennessee, it was announced Saturday.

Stern, who died on Jan. 1 at age 77, will be added to the Class of 2021, which originally was to be inducted this year until a postponement caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony will be held on June 12, 2021.

"David Stern's deeply held convictions a quarter-century ago gave birth to the WNBA and paved the way for a new era in women's professional team sports in our country," said Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, who was the first president of the WNBA in 1997. "He brilliantly married women's basketball with NBA capabilities, a sound business plan and a marketer's touch, and his vision produced a league that remains a beacon for women in the sports world.

"Legions of players, coaches, executives, referees and fans owe David an enormous debt of gratitude for his relentless determination to elevate women's basketball to the major league status it deserves."

The WNBA began its 24th season Saturday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Three former WNBA player are part of the 2021 induction class: Tamika Catchings, Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson.

The other members of the class are veteran player Debbie Brock and contributors Carol Callan, Sue Donohoe and Carol Stiff. The WBHOF will also honor the 1980 U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, which did not get to compete in the Moscow Olympics because of the United States' boycott. The team has been selected as the 2021 "Trailblazers of the Game" honoree for its contributions to the sport.

Stern was the NBA's commissioner from 1984 to 2014. He previously was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the International Basketball Hall of Fame and the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.