Former NBA Deputy Commissioner Simon Gourdine has died at the age of 72. Gourdine, who became Deputy Commissioner in 1974, was a former U.S. Attorney and worked in the League until the mid-1990s. He was one of the highest ranking black executives in professional sports. Via ESPN.com: “The NBA confirmed Gourdine died on Thursday, though the cause of death was not released. He was living in the Bronx. ‘Simon Gourdine made an extraordinary impact on the National Basketball Association over his nearly 20 years of service with our league,’ Commissioner David Stern said in a statement. ‘As both the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner and Executive Director of the Players Association, Simon brought the same zeal, integrity and excellence that he exhibited from his days as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. The NBA family has lost an innovator and a great friend.’ Gourdine became the NBA’s attorney in 1970 and was hired as deputy commissioner by Commissioner Walter Kennedy. He helped negotiate a labor deal that created free agency in the NBA in 1976 and helped the league absorb the Spurs, Pacers, Nets and Nuggets from the ABA. Gourdine ended up negotiating a deal that ended an NBA lockout and created a rookie pay scale.”