Glen Taylor, chairman of the NBA's board of governors, said the board had authorised negotiations with deputy commissioner Adam Silver to succeed Stern, who is the league's longest-serving commissioner.
Stern, 70, has presided over a period of expansion and growth for the NBA, both domestically and internationally, and last year concluded a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with players after a five-month lockout.
"I feel great, I am enjoying my job but I am looking forward to doing other things," Stern said after an NBA board of governors meeting in New York. "I'm standing down not retiring.
"I told them that it's been a great run, it will continue for another 15 months, that the league is in terrific condition."
Stern's departure date will mark the 30th anniversary of his takeover as commissioner from Larry O'Brien.
"The needs of the owners, the needs of the players have changed and David has led us through that each time," said Taylor.
"I think it has benefitted only the owners, but David has done things for the players. When David started, the players were being paid on average $250,000 and when we completed this contract, the average player is going to get paid $5 million.
"So he's not only benefitted the owners, but the players that we work with closely," Taylor added.
Stern said he was delighted to be handing over to his number two.
"Adam is a world-class business executive who has influenced so many areas of our business during his tenure with the NBA," Stern added. "I am pleased that the board has chosen him as my successor and I know the NBA will be in very good hands.
"I like to think that I did an adequate job, but one of the things I did best was to provide a successor that would be able to take the kinds of things that we now look at as huge growth opportunities, international, digital, television negotiations, and have somebody in place ... that has worked together with me, to take us to the next level."
Silver has been an NBA executive for 20 years and the league's deputy commissioner and chief operating officer since July 2006. His appointment as commissioner is expected to be formally confirmed in April.
The 50-year-old Silver previously had eight years as president and chief operating officer of NBA Entertainment, the film production arm of the league.
According to the league, Silver had played a key role in the negotiations of the NBA's last two television agreements.
"The opportunities for this league are truly limitless. I'm honoured, thrilled and will do my absolute best to grow this league, and this industry, only try to do it the same way David has done over the past 20 years," said Silver.
- Sports & Recreation
- Adam Silver