What if I started a company in 1946 that would become a multi-billion dollar behemoth?
Would you believe me, if I told you that over a 77 year period, from 1946 to 2023, five people would run that company?
Well, that's the history of the NBA in a nutshell. We've previously talked about oldest players, legendary coaches, and the age old goat debate. But, we've never really dug into the management of the NBA.
In today's article, we take a look at the 5 men responsible for what the NBA is today.
NBA Leadership Over The Years
The position of NBA Commissioner has evolved over time, but one thing's for certain: this was and is a highly coveted job that people don't leave. In the 77-year history of the NBA, only 5 men have held the position.
1. Maurice Podoloff (1946-1963): Podoloff was the inaugural holder of the commissioner position when the NBA was founded in 1946. He was a distinguished lawyer and Yale graduate who helped establish the league's early rules and regulations.
2. J. Walter Kennedy (1963-1975): Kennedy succeeded Podoloff as commissioner and oversaw the league's expansion from 9 to 18 teams. He also helped secure a lucrative television contract and improved the league's financial standing considerably.
3. Larry O'Brien (1975-1984): O'Brien was the third commissioner of the NBA and helped the league expand to 23 teams. He also helped negotiate the league's first collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. The NBA championship trophy is named after Mr. O'Brien.
4. David Stern (1984-2014): Stern was the longest-serving commissioner in NBA history, overseeing the league's growth from 23 to 30 teams and helping to establish the WNBA and NBA G League. He was also instrumental in expanding the league's global reach, particularly in China.
5. Adam Silver (2014-present): Silver succeeded Stern as commissioner in 2014. He has continued to grow the league economically and globally, especially in China. Silver has also been instrumental in developing the NBA's digital assets and establishing the Basketball Africa League.
What Is The NBA Commissioner Responsible For?
The NBA Commissioner is responsible for a wide range of duties and responsibilities that enable the league to run smoothly and efficiently. The following are some of the key responsibilities of the NBA Commissioner:
*Developing and implementing the league's strategic plan, including its vision, mission, and goals.
*Overseeing the NBA’s revenue-generating activities, including sponsorships, broadcasting rights, and licensing agreements.
*Developing and promoting the NBA’s brand and image.
*Managing the NBA’s relationship with the media and the public.
*Managing the NBA’s legal affairs, including addressing legal disputes and managing the league’s contracts.
*Bargaining contracts for sponsorships, game broadcast, and players.
*Arranging for game referees, scheduling games, and dealing with media bodies such as ESPN, TNT, and others.
*Negotiating contracts worth multi-billion dollars.
*Guiding operations for the WNBA, the NBA’s development G-League, and the NBA 2K League.
Overall, the NBA Commissioner is responsible for overseeing the activities of the organization, including working with team owners, executives, and other stakeholders to identify opportunities for growth and to establish long-term objectives for the league.
Of course, none of this is done in a silo. According to ZoomInfo, the NBA employs 3,150 people.
So, What's Next?
Adam Silver recently announced plans for an NBA in-season tournament. In addition, the NBA's tv deal with Disney and Warner Bros., which pays them approx. $2.7 billion per year, expires at the end of the 2024-2025 season. Word on the street is that the NBA is seeking a deal worth approximately $75 billion!
Silver, who turned 61 in April, isn't afraid to make moves. With the way media is being consumed, it will be interesting to see if traditional media networks maintain their partnership with the NBA, or if an upstart will break through.
One thing I do know, though, is that if history tells us anything, it's that we should expect Adam Silver to continue in his position for the foreseeable future.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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