To be considered for this list one must be currently active in their field. These are listed in Alphabetical order by last name. After months of research, speaking with players, GM’s, assistant GM’s, agents, NBA executives, money managers and other influencers in the NBA, we present the Silver Waves Media 100 Most Influential People in the NBA.
Joe Abunassar is the founder of Impact Basketball, one of the premier basketball training organizations internationally. He has worked with a wide range of athletes spanning from Hall of Famers such as Kevin Garnett and Chauncey Billups to upcoming young players such as Kristaps Porzingis and Kendrick Nunn. Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, Impact basketball is one of the first giant training programs that players have commonly gone to during the off season and is conveniently a stop away from the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League for 25 years. In addition, Abdunassar founded the IMG Academy in Sarasota, Florida that has been home to numerous NBA players as well as other key sports figures. Sitting on 450 acres of land, the academy is one of the most prestigious training institutions in the country for all sports and has even hosted a couple NBA Draft combines.
When the Greek sensation entered the league, many NBA fans simply called the soon to be 2x MVP the ‘Greek Freak’. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s steady improvement each year has made him one of the game’s biggest attractions, and he has forced all fans to learn how to pronounce his name. Antetokounmpo entered the NBA draft in 2013 as an unheralded project, with only NBA scouts and draft analysts recognizing the name. He played for the Greek team Filathlitikos before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks 15th overall; being in New York City for the draft was the first time he had entered the United States. Debuting at just 18 years old, he failed to make a sizable impact his rookie season. However, as Antetokounmpo continued to develop his body and skillset, he greatly improved each season and in 2016, he was rewarded with a 4 year, $100 million dollar extension. Since, Giannis has grown from rising star to bonafide stud, winning the 2018-2019 NBA MVP and leading the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals. At just 25, the humble superstar is here to stay atop his peak in the NBA, wreaking havoc on both ends of the floor and dominating opposing big men.
Many have made the transition from playing in the NBA to joining a front office, however, very few have done it as successfully as Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge. Ainge had a short stint with the Toronto Blue Jays before being drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1981. The versatile athlete went on to enjoy a lengthy 14 year career, with eight of those years being spent in Boston. Ainge won two NBA championships with the Celtics, and was known for being a tough and confrontational player on the hardwood. The Oregon product transitioned to the front office in 2003 as the Executive Director of Basketball Operations of the Celtics. Ainge constructed the 2008 NBA Championship squad by trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and kickstarted their rebuild in 2013 by trading Paul Pierce and Garnett to the Nets for first round picks who turned into All-Star Jayson Tatum and young phenom Jaylen Brown. Already a seasoned veteran in basketball operations, Ainge is one of the smartest basketball minds in the game today.
The owner of the NBA's Miami Heat, Micky Arison, has become one of the most successful professional sports owners. He has been the owner for over 25 years and has won 3 championships with superstars such as Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh. He was named to Forbes 400 Richest Americans in 2009, and in 2006, Mr. Arison created the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation to help increase and help medical research around the world. They have accumulated over $37 million for medical research and to make grants to other life-saving organizations. Mr. Arison has continued to show the good one can do with his stage and spotlight and will continue to shine his influence on the good in the NBA.
Atkins oversees everything Adidas when it comes to the brand’s visibility in the basketball world. A veteran of the company for nearly 25 years, Atkins has had ten different titles within the company on his trek up the ladder. A powerful brand, Adidas’ fingerprints are throughout the sport at every level, but are specifically apparent in the NBA with hundreds of contracts out to various NBA players like James Harden, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Andrew Wiggins, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, and more. The brand is also prevalent at the McDonald’s All-American game with many future NBA players as the brand remains the official outfitter for the annually held game for high school stars. Atkins earned his degree in the UK and got his professional start in Europe as well.
The most popular NBA TV show for multiple years now, Inside the NBA, is one of the biggest platforms in the league. The hosts include NBA legends, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and the famous NBA show host Ernie Johnson. Shaquille O'Neal's time and records will never fade in NBA history. The 7’’1 325 lb center single-handedly changed the NBA and how it was played. He racked up 28,596 points in his career, 4 championships, 3 finals MVP, 15 All-Star appearances, and his jersey retired by two franchises (Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers) as well as LSU Tigers. O'Neal ranks 8th in points scored, is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the FIBA Hall of Fame. His influence and legacy are felt to this day. Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most talked-about, respected, and famous people in NBA history. O'Neal is joined by Charles Barkley, another NBA legend and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member. Charles Barkley is one of the select group of former NBA players who have influenced basketball as both a player and an analyst. Barkley was a dominant force right away after he was drafted 5th overall in 1984. He was an NBA MVP, 11x All-Star, 5x NBA First Team member, and 5x NBA Second Team Member. Although he was never able to win an NBA Championship, Barkley is still considered one of the greats and has his #34 jerseys retired by the Philadelphia 76ers and the Auburn Tigers. Kenny Smith, the third NBA great on the show, was a 2-time champion, and a gold medal winner who is so well-spoken and understands the game better than most. Many viewers and executives care and respect his opinions and analysis throughout his tenure as a host. Lastly, Ernie Johnson, the son of Ernie Johnson Sr., a former MLB pitcher, has hosted Inside the NBA since 1990. Johnson is the backbone of the show and always has been. Johnson has an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality and Studio Host and will always be a successful, respected, and outstanding personality in the NBA.
Steve Ballmer is the acting owner of the Los Angeles Clippers since 2014 and has already had a significant impact on the franchise already in those 6 years. Ballmer, the 16th richest person in the world per Forbes, uses his money and platform for good. His exciting and exuberant attitude is beloved by fans and players alike and is an excellent example of how players would like owners to act and get involved with the franchise. Ballmer has donated over $250 million in charitable donations since 2014 and will continue to use his spotlight for wellbeing and help continue to be a highly respected person in the NBA and in the world.
Bryant Barr was a former teammate of Steph Curry’s at Davidson College, and is now the president of SC30 Incorporated. SC30 Inc. is the company who facilitates all of the two-time MVP’s off the court interests. Barr helps contribute to the brands partnerships, media presence, investment choices and multiple other facets of the company. Barr attended Stanford University where he achieved his Master’s degree, and he now lives in the Bay Area full-time. At just 32 years old, look for Barr to continue to advance SC30 Inc. in the coming years and decades
The founder of Priority Sports and Entertainment, one of the most prestigious athlete representation agencies in the world, Mark Bartelstein, has become one of the premier names in the NBA business world. Mr. Bartelstein has negotiated over $850 million in contract negotiations, per Forbes. Mr. Barrtelstein has 31 clients ranging from the NBA to the NFL that include names such as Bradley Beal, Tim Haradaway Jr., and Kyle Lowry. Mark Bartelstein has built an empire in Priority Sports and Entertainment frequently showing up on lists of the "World's Most Valuable Sports Agencies." His successful contract negotiation of John "Hot Rod" Williams is still discussed to this day, and Mr. Bartelstein has not stopped there. Representing five players from the 2019 NBA draft, Mark Bartelstein and Priority Sports and Entertainment have built for the future and will continue to find success.
Behrens is involved with many roles within the NBA through her position as President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs. With that position, she coordinates all NBA programs that involve league social responsibility, youth basketball promotion, player growth and education, and improving marketing possibilities for former and current players. This behind the scenes star got her start with the league in 2000, being hired as the VP of Community Relations. She has held various other VP and senior VP positions since then, all before the job she holds today. Prior to her involvement in basketball, Behrens served as the Executive Director of New York Cares, a non profit organization, along with serving time in the administration of former New York governor Mario M. Cuomo. Behrens is one of the main cogs in the behind the scenes workings of the NBA that lets the league run smoothly, and her kind hearted spirit and work ethic make her one of the top class employees in all of the NBA.
The ESPN team of Billups, Nichols, Pierce, and Rose are some of the more familiar faces when it comes to ESPN and their NBA coverage. Together they make up NBA Countdown, a very popular pregame show that is seen around the NBA before marquee and nationally televised games on the network. With nearly 40 years of playing experience, two NBA titles, and 15 NBA All-Star game selections between Billups, Pierce, and Rose, the knowledge that is portrayed is wide ranging. As far as Nichols, she has been covering sports since 1995 and is considered to be one of the biggest names in sports journalism with appearances on shows such as E:60, Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, Monday Night Football, and Sportscenter.
Bohuny is perhaps the most well versed NBA employee on the league’s growing international presence. She is the Senior Vice President of NBA International Basketball Operations and is in charge of overseeing “all interactions” with the international players currently on NBA teams. Additionally, she serves as the league’s liaison to FIBA, and overlooks the NBA’s international basketball development strategies. She helps in the planning and execution of the widely successful Basketball without Borders program, and her team puts together elote coaching and development camps in five of the seven continents. Ms. Bohuny also helps plan the USA Basketball World Cup and Olympics schedule, and previously held the position of VP of International Basketball Relations. What we have seen from the league in recent years has been exponential growth in the popularity of the game overseas, and undoubtedly Bohuny has played a crucial role in that rise. As more NBA stars are coming from overseas, such as Pascal Siakaam and Joel Embiid, the international expert will continue to help the game flourish outside of the United States.
The team of Jackson, Breen, and Van Gundy are common voices that you hear night in and night out while viewing the NBA. The three have nearly fifty years of broadcasting experience between them. With 28 of those years coming from Breen himself, Jackson and Van Gundy also bring head coaching experience to the table. Jackson served as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors from 2011-14 while Van Gundy served as the Knicks and Rockets coach from 1996-07. In addition, Jackson also enjoyed a promising playing career where he was named a NBA All-Star once from 87-04. The three of them combine to shape people’s views and analyze the game millions tune in to view on ESPN
Breeker is an NBA agent, however, his expertise is representing head coaches and executives, rather than players. Breecker received his education at the University of San Diego, and is now a top member at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top sports agencies in the NBA. CAA represents the upper echelon of NBA talent, including Zion Williamson, Paul George, and Chris Paul. Breecker’s title is ‘Head of Basketball Coaches and Executives’, and he represents some of the brightest coaching minds in basketball. His client list includes Mike Malone of the Denver Nuggets, Steve Clifford of the Orlando Magic, and Taylor Jenkins of the Memphis Grizzlies. Breecker was formally the managing partner at Kauffman’s Sports Agency, but he assumed his current position when CAA bought Kauffman. Breecker is one of the elite agents in the NBA, and he will continue to grow his personal profile, and CAA’s profile, in the coming years.
Considered an essential part of the NBA Insider family, Broussard has built his career on being the first to break numerous stories and happenings within the NBA. He recently had stops at The New York Times and ESPN before embarking on his journey with Fox Sports. Broussard was constantly seen on ESPN SportsCenter, NBA Countdown, among other programs on the network. He is followed by millions in search of news within the NBA on his social media platforms and his The Odd Couple Podcast with Rob Parker remains popular on a weekly basis with the same crowd.
Jaylen Brown is one of the NBA's youngest rising stars, both on and off the court. After a highly productive season at Cal Berkeley, where he was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Brown was drafted third by the Boston Celtics. He made an immediate impact, solidifying a rotational role as a rookie and earning All-Rookie Second Team honors. Since then, he has become a franchise cornerstone for a young Celtics team, hoping to push for an NBA title in the coming years. While achieving success on the court, Brown has also made his presence felt within the NBA Player's Association, becoming the youngest elected Vice President ever at age 22.
The current CEO of the San Antonio Spurs, R.C. Buford, has been the mastermind behind the Spurs dynasty in the last decade. He was named general manager of the team in 2002 and won the NBA Executive of the Year Award twice, and was a part of 5 NBA Championships with the Spurs. After having a short stint as a player at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, Buford turned to coaching. He was a member of the Kansas Jayhawks coaching staff for five seasons, specifically during the Jayhawks 1987 NCAA Championship. R.C. Buford is one of the best executives in the history of the sport, and many successful executives and people today learned everything from Mr. Buford.
Described by ESPN as "one of the most powerful women in the NBA," Mrs. Buss is now the President and controlling owner of the 17-time NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Buss gained controlling ownership of the franchise after her father, Jerry Buss passed away in 2013. Buss, now 58, has been involved with the Lakers her entire life, as she was for four years the president of the Lakers home arena, the Great Western Forum. In 1999, she was named executive vice president of business operations for the Lakers, and in the coming years she was labeled by Forbes as, “one of few powerful women in sports management.” When she assumed ownership, she continued to work on the business side while also overseeing basketball operations with her brother, Jim buss. In her tenure, Buss cycled through Mitch Kupchak and Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations before hiring Kobe Bryant’s former agent, Rob Pelinka, as general manager. Buss and Pelinka have made a formidable duo at the top of the Laker’s brass, and Buss’ basketball experience and prowess make her an ideal owner for the Los Angeles powerhouse, now led by Lebron James and Anthony Davis.
A JUCO product that is known for his work ethic, Butler starred at Marquette University under Buzz Williams after having a rough upbringing. He consistently improved throughout his career and was drafted as the 30th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. After stints in Chicago with the Bulls, Minnesota with the Timberwolves, and Philadelphia with the 76ers, Butler has amassed five NBA All-Star selections. He is in the first year of a four-year $140.79 million maximum contract that he signed after being traded from the 76ers to the Heat, which goes even further to show that he is considered one of the big fish in the NBA as far as title contention is concerned.
Currently the 16th most winningest coach in NBA history, Rick Carlisle will go down as one of the best coaches in the history of the game. After nine years in collegiate and professional basketball, Carlisle turned to coaching. Carlisle acted as an assistant for the Nets under Chuck Daly, with the Trail Blazers under P.J. Carlesimo, and with the Indiana Pacers under Larry Bird before being hired by the Pistons as head coach. This led him to be named Coach of the Year in 2002, his first year with the team, and set him up for another stint with the Indiana Pacers as head coach. After success in his first few seasons but no ring or trophy to show for it, Carlisle left Indiana for an ESPN job before landing with the Dallas Mavericks. Since then, the Mavericks and Rick Carlile have not looked back. Under Coach Carlisle, the Mavericks have been among the most consistent and successful teams in the NBA. The Mavericks and Coach Rick Carlisle won the 2011 NBA Championship in one of the most impressive and story-filled seasons in the history of the NBA. They eliminated the Miami Heat and Lebron James in the finals. To this day, Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the league today and in the sport's history.
The Athletic and Stadium NBA expert Shams Charania has shocked the world by gaining respect and connections throughout the league at such a young age. He is seen as the future of NBA reporting. Starting at the age of 17, Charania flew onto the scene with RealGM as he was able to report on small trades and signings before other senior reporters. He then joined forces with Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo Sports because Woj felt, "[Shams] the best young reporter in [the] business." He became a huge sensation that was able to break news way before others, which led him to become the senior NBA reporter for The Athletic and Stadium. Shams is the future of NBA reporting and breaking news and is only just starting to climb to his true potential.
Jerry Colangelo has had one of the most storied careers in all of the professional sports. Starting in 1966, Colangelo had worked as a scout for the Chicago Bulls, where he worked for two years until 1968 when he was hired by the newly created Phoenix Suns as general manager. During his tenure with the Suns, Colangelo won NBA Executive of the Year four times before handing over the reins to his son Bryan in 1995. From 2001 to 2005, he served as the Chairman of the Board of Governors. In 2005, Colangelo took control of the USA National Team, hiring Coach K and then Gregg Popovich to lead the men's teams. Tooley on the other hand has been with USA Basketball since 1993 and was appointed as CEO in 2001. He too has seen a significant rise in USA Basketball, which currently ranks No. 1 in all five of five of FIBA's world-ranking categories, including combined, men's, women's, boys and girls. He currently serves on the FIBA Central Board and is treasurer of FIBA Americas, while also serving on the Executive Committee & Central Board of FIBA Americas. He is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Trustees, and has also been an ambassador for FIBA's development of 3x3 basketball worldwide.
For the past 15 years Comerford's technology platform FastModel has sold software to every NBA franchise. FastModel Sports helps coaches at all levels of basketball be organized and efficient with workflows and demands they navigate year round. FastModel's Platform consists of FastScout (Game Prep and Player Scouting), FastRecruit (Recruiting Logistics), and FastAccess (Communication). FastModel has existing contracts with 100% NBA franchises, 100% WNBA franchises, 100% G-League franchises, 85% men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Basketball Programs, over 15,000 high school teams and 70 countries world-wide. "We have used FastScout and FastDraw for 10 years. The product Ross and his team has invented has literally changed the NBA. Every single team uses his products and scouting has not been the same. He has single handedly changed the way we can prepare for opponents and he's made our coaching staff, as well as others, more prepared, better prepared. I know he took his company from his kitchen table to now being a household name within the NBA” - NBA Head Coach. These relationships stretch across an entire organization from NBA owners, Executives, GM's, Coaches, Scouts and the Video Room who many have become friends, Coaches are always looking for Ross' read on the latest technology, players, coaches and scouts as well. You will find Ross at a game 2-3 hours before tip wearing a suit, working the sidelines shaking hands and providing advice and guidance. You can often catch him court-side at NBA games or in owners boxes eating lunch or dinner with some of the game's largest figures, or even doing interviews on SportsCenter. What started as a software company has skyrocketed Comerford to gain access to the most exclusive inner circles of basketball. He plays the role of confidant to many of the most powerful and influential people within the sport.
The billionaire celebrity, Mark Cuban, is one of the most successful people globally, especially in the NBA. Starting his first company in his garage, Mark Cuban went on to sell multiple companies for almost $5.9 billion. In 2000, Cuban purchased a majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks and had done everything he could to help them succeed and even win the finals in 2011. The team's winning percentage rose by almost 29% when Mark Cuban took over as owner. Mark Cuban has been one of the most successful and hands-on owners in major sports and is held to very high regard throughout the association. Mr. Cuban has successfully helped launch the NBA to popularity numbers unfathomable ten years ago and will continue to help the NBA grow and succeed.
The NBA superstar and 2-time MVP, Stephen Curry, is among the most influential and respected players in the NBA today. Curry has a tremendous and loyal following as he is not only a fantastic basketball player but has also done amazing work off of the court through charity, donations, and public service. The son of Dell Curry, Hornets high, Curry grew up in basketball and was destined for greatness at a young age. In college, at Davidson, he made his first big headline after showing the world his skill in March Madness. After winning three NBA Finals and two MVPs, Stephen Curry has cemented himself in NBA history and will continue to move up the ladder of all-time greats.
The Houston Rockets current Head Coach, Mike D'Antoni has had one of the most profound and successful careers in NBA history. Ranked 20th in wins of all time, Coach D'Antoni is seen as one of the most highly-respected and willing coaches ever. His creation of the "Seven Seconds or Less" game plan led him to success with multiple stories franchises such as the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, and even the 2012 USA Olympic Team. A 2-time NBA Coach of the Year and Hall of Fame Inductee of the Italian Basketball League. Coach D'Antoni has also been a staple and example in society throughout his career, in terms of charity donations and work, recently donating $100,000 to Houston COVID-19 Relief.
Commonly referred to as the “The Brow,” Anthony Davis is one of the big puzzle pieces in the NBA when you talk about free agency or contending for NBA titles. Before coming to the Lakers, Davis was the topic of consistent news and speculation as far as his free agency decision was concerned. The Chicago, Illinois native was drafted as the number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft after playing under John Calipari at the University of Kentucky and winning a national championship. He was named by numerous outlets as the national player of the year, national defensive player of the year, and national freshman of the year in his single year for the wildcats. He has gone on to have a prosperous NBA career that is headed down a Naismith Hall of Fame path.
The 21-year-old Slovenian superstar for the Dallas Mavericks has turned many heads with his play in his first two years in the NBA. He has been framed as the most prominent international prospect in the NBA since, a former Maverick, Dirk Nowitzki. He became his professional career for Real Madrid at only 13-years-old. At Real Madrid, Doncic was famed as the Euroleague rising star twice, All-Euroleague team, Final Four MVP, EuroLeague MVP, and EuroLeague Champion. This led him to be selected as the third pick in the 2018 draft, and he has not looked back. Named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2018 and an All-star this year in 2020. Doncic's career is just getting started and is one of the brightest stars for the future of the NBA.
Under Armour's General Manager and Head of Footwear since 2017, Ryan Drew has helped Under Armour tap into the basketball world. In recent years Under Armour has started to build their presence in the NBA. Of course, they are most well known for being partners with Stephen Curry, but they also sponsor other high profile clientele such as Joel Embiid and Dennis Smith Jr. Drew has been crucial for UA’s entrance into the basketball realm. Drew himself played at Cal Berkeley for four years and still holds the record for most three point field goals in one game. Formerly the head of the basketball division within Under Armour, Drew is highly respected among his peers and understands the ins and outs of the basketball business; look for Under Armour’s basketball footprint to continue to expand under Drew’s leadership.
Bill Duffy is one of the fastest rising sports agents in the NBA. Prior to his days as an agent, Duffy played basketball at the University of Minnesota, and was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1982. Just 3 years later, however, Duffy transitioned to becoming an agent, signing Cleveland Browns WR Webster Slaughter. Later, Duffy co-founded BDA Sports Management, a company who have since gone on to represent NBA talent such as Steve Nash and Yao Ming. Currently, Duffy represents 23 NBA clients, including Zach Lavine, Goran Dragic, and Nikola Vucevic and has more than 500$ million dollars in active NBA deals. Duffy was listed by Forbes as #30 on their list of top Sports Agents in 2019.
One of the greatest scorers the NBA has ever seen, Kevin Durant, more commonly referred to as “KD,” has dominated the league since being drafted second in 2007 by the team formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics. His departure from Oklahoma City to Golden State shook up the entire foundation of the league, cementing the Warriors’ dynasty status until his departure for Brooklyn. Off the court, he has been involved in acting, appearing in the aptly named movie Thunderstruck, and production, with his company Thirty Five Ventures and his investment in sports media conglomerate Overtime.
Nicknamed “The Process,” after the infamous tanking strategy employed by ex-Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, Joel Embiid has emerged as one of the most dominant players in the NBA today. Embiid was born in Cameroon, Africa, and only started playing organized basketball at age 15, modeling his game after Hakeem Olajowun. After being discovered at a basketball camp, the Cameroon native moved to the United states to focus on basketball full-time, and was signed to Kansas University as a five-star recruit. After one year at Kansas, Embiid was drafted with the third overall pick, and has been a walking highlight reel ever since. Despite battling injuries and conditioning issues that have plagued him since his arrival, Embiid has flat out produced for Brett Brown’s squad, making three all-star appearances and two appearances on the All-NBA Second Team. Embiid is unquestionably a top 3 center in the league, and he and Ben Simmons will look to validate ‘the process’ and end the long suffering of 76ers fans as they push for an NBA championship.
Both Lorenzo Esparza and Justin McCurdy have been able to make Manhattan West the successful financial powerhouse that it is today. Esparza, the CEO of Manhattan West has created a financial firm dealing with over $300 million from clients. Formerly at JP Morgan and Paramount Pictures, Esparza is one of the most successful businessmen in the world, succeeding in multiple different aspects of law and business. Alongside Esparza, Justin McCurdy is the executive director of Manhattan West. McCurdy serves the sports and entertainment side of the industry for Manhattan West. McCurdy worked at Morgan Stanley and founded his own basketball program in Southern California named Pro Skills. McCurdy continues to give back and help others reach their potential in basketball by mentoring and teaching young athletes in his program. The two of them combine to help numerous NBA veterans, all-stars, and retirees with their financial decisions that include but are not limited to, investments, real estate transactions, and building businesses.
The owner of the Houston Rockets has utilized his incredibly successful business ventures to fuel his undying passion for athletics. Fertitta has a net worth of approximately $4.5 billion dollars, an amount of wealth he accrued by starting and being the sole owner of Landry’s Inc., purchasing casinos and restaurants, and many other business ventures. Fertitta has secured his own reality show on CNBC, Billion Dollar Buyer, and recently published a book: Shut Up and Listen! Hard Business Truths That Will Help You Succeed. In the realm of sports, Fertitta purchased the Rockets in 2017 for $2.2 billion dollars, and the team has experienced immense success ever since his takeover. Fertita was also initially a part-owner of the Houston Texans, and has donated $20 million dollars to the University of Houston football program. Fertitta is a passionate owner, often pictured courtside cheering on his squad, and is known to be involved in the workings of the franchise. He is also involved in the community charitably, as among other positions, serving as the chairperson of the Houston Police Department's Foundation.
A man who has assumed many roles, both in coaching and in broadcasting, is Fran Fraschilla. Fraschilla, now 61, started serving as an assistant coach at the University of Rhode Island, Ohio University, Ohio State University, and Providence College before getting his chance as a head coach at Manhattan College. After time spent at St. John’s University and the University of New Mexico, compiling over 175 wins total, Fraschilla transitioned to becoming a basketball analyst for ESPN. Fraschilla is currently an analyst for mostly BIG 12 Conference games, but he has covered the FIBA World Championships, the NBA, high school basketball, and women’s basketball. The basketball wizard also contributes to several hoops related charities off the court, including the ‘Coaches for Cancer’ charitable organization.
Super Lawyer Bryan Freedman is one of the most connected people on planet earth. He is connected to NBA owners, NBA players and is part of some of the biggest deals in the NBA. Freedman has developed an outstanding reputation and is known as the "Great White Shark" in NBA circles because of his ability to make things happen. A Sports and Entertainment Litigator since 1991 who has been the go to litigator for NBA owners, coaches and players in high stakes matters. He has been selected by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the 100 best lawyers in the country for the past 13 straight years and has been named a Southern California Super Lawyer for the past 14 years. His Sports and Entertainment practice has led to numerous awards including being named to the inaugural Variety500 and being profiled in Variety’s 2015 and 2020 Legal Impact Report.
The 10-year veteran in the NBA has grown into one of the decade's best after being drafted in 2010 out of Fresno State. George is now a 6-Time NBA All-Star, 2-time All-Defensive Team, and NBA Most Improved Player (2013). He's shown an unwillingness not to give his best every single game, and his play against Lebron James in the 2015 NBA Playoffs helped him gain Nationwide attention and attention from many other stars in the league. His rise to NBA stardom took a hit in 2014 when Paul George suffered a severe leg injury in a Team USA scrimmage. Every single NBA fan can tell you where they were when this occurred. George's resiliency is his lasting impact, he flew back onto the scene and picked up right where he left off with efficient scoring and leadership on and off the court. In 2017, the Pacers traded George to the Thunder, where he played with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. The star-studded lineup led to playoff runs but never lived up to expectations, and Paul George was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers to pair with Kwahi Leonard to create the best big two in the league for a long time. Throughout his time in the league, George has supported many causes and can be seen volunteering whenever possible. He is the symbol of resiliency and professionalism as he did not let an injury take over his life and picked up right where he left off and is back at the top of the NBA. This story has inspired so many and will continue to as Paul George gets ready to contend for the NBA championship with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer.
The co-founder of Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert has owned the Cleveland Cavaliers since March of 2005 when he bought the franchise for $375 million dollars from previous owner Gordun Gund; the franchise is now worth $1.5 billion dollars, per Forbes. After assuming control of the Cavaliers, Gilbert authorized an overhaul of the front office, coaching staff, and players. Gilbert’s purchase came in Lebron James' second season in Cleveland, and together they achieved five NBA Final appearances and, of course, the NBA title in 2018. Gilbert notably owns multiple other sports franchises such as the NBA G League’s Canton Charge and the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. He will always be remembered in Cleveland lore for being at the helm while his NBA team broke Cleveland’s 52 year sports-curse.
Jonathan Givony founded DraftExpress.com in 2003, growing the site over the years into the industry gold standard for NBA Draft analysis. Graduating from Florida with a degree in telecommunication management, Givony was a self-taught scout that rose to the ranks with consistent, thorough, and success reports and sources. Since its founding in 2003, DraftExpress has been the go to site for analysis, videos, and mock drafts for every NBA team and fan. The scouting powerhouse was and still is a useful tool to scouts and teams today. On top of DraftExpress, Givony founded Givony Basketball & Associates, another scouting service and consulting company for NBA and international teams. In 2017, after 14 years of operation, DraftExpress shuttered as ESPN hired Givony as a full time NBA Draft analyst.
A 20-year veteran in the sports agency business, Sam Goldfeder knows all there is to the NBA. His long list of clients is made up of many of the NBA stars, such as C.J. McCollum, Isaiah Thomas, and Blake Griffin. It is projected, he has commissioned over $17 million in contract negotiations. Goldfeder comes from a law background, in 1990 he started off in the District's attorney office of Philadelphia and worked for the Attorney General's office before turning to sports and player representation. He started his sports career off working for Excel Sports Management, where he was one of the original two first agents. Goldfeder, one of the most prominent and respected agents in the business, has as much influence as one can in this business.
Tom Gores is the current owner of the Detroit Pistons. Gores is an American businessman and founder of Platinum Equity. His impact goes beyond basketball and the Detroit Pistons. His philanthropy is impressive. He donates almost $15 million each year to multiple charities such as UCLA Medical Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Flin, Michigan, and even helping out the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Gores' impact on the court is impressive and should be emulated by every owner and person in the NBA.
Co-owners of the Golden State Warriors, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have left their mark on NBA history after their acquisition of the team in 2010. Gruber is also the co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Football Club, and a professional eSports team called aXiomatic Gaming. As the chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, Gruber helped build the company to where it is today, producing popular and successful movies. His co-owner, Joe Lacob is a partner at Kleiner Perkins in Menlo Park, California. Lacob has been with the company since 1987. Lacob had experience as an owner as he was once a part-owner of the Boston Celtics. It was this ownership group’s decision to hire Steve Kerr as head coach in 2014, a move that alongside the timely development of their franchise cornerstones, led to the making of a dynasty that has thus far resulted in three championships.
Albert Hall is the President of HallPass Media and is the co-founder of the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. 14 years ago, Hall, now VP for business operations of the summer league, and his partner Warren Legarie, recognized the absence of attractive NBA summer basketball. With support from commissioner David Stern and Adam Silver, the two founded the Vegas Summer League, a showcase for young draft picks, G Leaguers, and older overseas players. Now, more than 100,000 fans attend the Vegas Summer League, and star teammates such as Lebron James frequent the sidelines. The games are televised on ESPN and often draw over 1 million viewers. Hall has built the Summer League into a summer powerhouse, and he will continue to grow the enterprise, along with HallPass Media, in the coming years.
"The Beard" is easily one of the most recognizable faces in the NBA today. Selected third in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden quickly rose to prominence as an electric scorer off the bench, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award during the 2011-12 season. After being traded to Houston, he began his ascent into NBA stardom, eventually being named the MVP of the 2018 season. In 2015, Harden signed a 13-year, $200 million endorsement deal with Adidas and launched his own line of signature sneakers. Additionally, last year he became part owner of the Houston Dynamo and the Houston Dash, the city's two professional soccer teams.
With an estimated worth of $6 billion between the two and fingerprints all over the sports world, Harris and Blitzer are more than deserving of being on the list. The two are co-founders and managing partners of the investment group Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. The two purchased the team for an estimated $280 million in 2011. The pair have also purchased a majority stake in the New Jersey Devils, and a share in Crystal Palace FC. In addition, they own the NBA G-League’s Delaware Blue Coats, the AHL’s Binghamton Devils, esports team Dignitas, sports tech venture capital firm HBSE Ventures, and marketing, hospitality, and event ticketing company Elevate Sports Ventures.
The Vice President of Nike's North America Basketball Sports Marketing, Nico Harrison, has made a refined impact on the NBA for years. Harrison, a Montana State University alum, played college basketball, which led him to professional basketball in Belgium. Returning to the states, Harrison was named an NBA representative for Nike and worked with players such as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kobe Bryant. Harrison, one of the most respected men in the NBA business and college basketball, has continued to climb the ladder. Harrison is a popular and successful person in the industry that many look up to and try to emulate. His rise to where he is today is admirable, but Harrison is not done, Nico Harrison will continue to build on a stellar resume and continue to be one of the most influential people in the league. Nico Harrison never relishes a moment to teach basketball or the business of sports to any young aspiring athlete or businesspeople. He has shown love to train the next generation and help others reach their goals.
Chris Haynes is one of the most respected media members in the NBA, evidenced by the fact he was one of only two media members to be granted early entry into the Orlando “bubble”. Haynes’ story is an inspiring one; the Fresno State alum began his journalism career as an unpaid freelance writer. He eventually secured a job as a writer and reporter at ESPN and held that job for several years before Damian Lillard announced on Twitter he was leaving ESPN for Yahoo Sports in 2018. Now, Haynes serves as Yahoo’s senior NBA insider, and works as a sideline reporter for TNT’s national basketball coverage. He is widely known for having great relationships with the players; he conducted the first interview with Kevin Durant after he signed with the Brooklyn Nets, and has also done one-on-ones with superstars Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard. Hayne’s unique ability to connect with the NBA elite, along with his devoted work ethic, makes him one of the elite NBA reporters.
The first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving is one of the most dynamic point guards to ever play in the league. Arriving to the league via Duke as the number one overall selection of the 2011 NBA Draft. Irving rose onto the scene quickly, leading the Cavaliers team and winning the 2011 Rookie of the Year. Irving is now a 6-time all star, 3-time gold medal winner, one time champion, and USA Basketball Player of the Year in 2014. Aside from his championship exploits alongside LeBron James, Irving has built up his own personal brand through his iconic acting role as “Uncle Drew” and through his Nike signature sneaker line. Growing up in New Jersey, Irving learned a sense of community and has given back to his community time and time again throughout his career. This is what ultimately helped the Nets win over Kyrie in the 2018 free agency and why many look up to Irving. Regardless of how prominent or successful Kyrie Irving gets, he has admirably shown a willingness to defend and help promote his community and circle.
Simply put, "King James" is one of the greatest basketball players ever. Since being drafted first by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, James has continuously built on his legacy, either through his individual accolades, his creation of historic superteams, or his off-court ventures Rich Paul's Klutch Sports Group or Maverick Carter's Uninterrupted. In 2015, Lebron signed a lifetime deal with Nike that is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, cementing his status as arguably the most prolific presence in sports. In 2018 Lebron James established the I Promise School in Akron Ohio. The I Promise School started with grades three and four and focuses on providing educational opportunities to those who are less privileged. Aside from their STEM curriculum, the school also focuses on improving home life and helping parents create a stable learning experience at home through their Family Resource Center and their family plan.
Enshrined as one of the greatest players of all time, Michael Jordan has arguably had the most significant impact on a professional sport that a player can have. Jordan has an illustrious career for the Chicago Bulls tallying six championships, 6 Finals Most Valuable Players, 4 Most Valuable Players, 14-time All-Star appearances, and one NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He is and was the definition of domination when it comes to basketball. Jordan has also been one of the most respected players in how he competed and held himself accountable for every game he played. In 2006, Jordan bought a minority stake in the then-Charlotte Bobcats and was given control of the basketball operations. Then, in 2010, Jordan entirely bought the Charlotte Hornets and became the full owner of the team. His legacy is still seen today in players, how organizations are created, how players compete, and across the globe with the youngest generation still amazed by the skill he showed in his 15 year NBA career. There are not many more influential in the association than Michael "Air" Jordan. He also showed consistent philanthropy, such as recently pledging $100 million over the next ten years to combat racial inequality and help organizations that share that same desire.
Steve Kerr is the current Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors. Although this year did not go as planned, Steve Kerr has exceeded every expectation since he has taken over as head coach of the Warriors. He's racked up 337 total wins and a 71% winning percentage, one of the best tenures in head coaching in NBA history. Kerr, a former player, was part of both Chicago Bulls' three-peats with Michael Jordan and won one championship with the San Antonio Spurs. His influence on and off the court is felt every single day in the NBA, with his success as a player, coach, and human being with constant charitable works and public work to help out his communities. His influence stretches far beyond the NBA court as he is outspoken about social issues and helps out in any way he can.
Nike's wizard and genius have had one of the greatest and most significant impacts on basketball ever since the creation of the sport so long ago. He has always been an inspiration and influence on so many young players and businesspeople since his early life, where he created a rival newspaper to his fathers' because he would not give Phil a job. After serving in the Army Reserve, Phil Knight created Nike and grew the billion-dollar company to what it is today. Phil Knight has also been a massive inspiration in philanthropy throughout his life, donating over $2 billion to multiple charities and causes to promote education for lower-income families and improve and expand sports in areas. He has pledged millions of dollars to cancer research and even has given money back to Nike as a charity to the company. Mr. Knight was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2012 and has always been a prominent and influential force in the NBA's popularity, perseverance and success.
Stan Kroenke is the owner of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, who is holding company of many sports in all major sports leagues and specifically in the NBA for the Denver Nuggets. As a kid, Mr. Kroenke played basketball, baseball, and ran track as he always showed affection for sports. Since then, Kroenke founded his company in 1999 and has escalated into one of the world's biggest powerhouse sports entertainment companies. He is one of the most powerful and influential people in sports, specifically in the NBA.
As the co-founder and chief executive officer of Avenue Capital Group, Marc Lasry is worth an estimated $1.8 billion. He purchased the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014 for an estimated $550 million and the franchise has taken off since becoming one of the most dominant teams in not only the NBA’s Eastern Conference, but the NBA in general. With a budding megastar in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a strong supporting cast, expect the Milwaukee Bucks to be a player in contention for a NBA title and Lasry to be a familiar name on the championship podium.
When you represent many of the coaches and executives in the NBA and serve as the director and founder of the Las Vegas NBA Summer League, you almost certainly have to have a spot on the list. LeGarie fits exactly that. He is the man that relentlessly convinced the late David Stern to bring a summer league to Las Vegas, which has now been operating for 15+ years, and is also the same man that has clients like Dallas Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle, Portland Trailblazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, among many other prominent figures throughout the league. LeGarie began his career as a player agent in Europe where he represented more than 100 players each year.
“The Klaw” is one of the greatest NBA players of this generation. Having emerged as a key cog in the Spurs’ championship runs in the early 2010’s, Leonard has only solidified his status as one of the league’s premier talents, having won two NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, two Defensive Player of the Year awards as well as having been selected to several All-Star teams. Leonard played his college ball at San Diego State University where he led them to the MWC tournament two times in a row. With little recognition out of the draft, the Spurs traded up to select Leonard and were able to harvest the defensive-minded young forward into one of the premier two-way players in NBA history. In only 9 seasons, Leonard has cemented himself as one of the greats, leading two different franchises to a championship and he has not even reached his peak. Joining the Clippers in 2019, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are on a mission to bring home another team another championship this summer.
From Oakland, CA to Weber State to the NBA, Damian Lillard has always been listed as the underdog. From his multiple endorsement deals to one of the league’s most prolific scorers, Lillard has proven himself since being drafted in 2012 as the sixth overall pick. He was unanimously voted as the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and has gone on to be a five-time NBA All-Star while averaging 23.5 PPG, 6.3 APG, & 4.2 RPG for his career. Lillard was not highly touted out of high school and was not known by many. Despite this, he was named Big Sky Freshman of the Year at Weber State. He went on to earn two Big Sky Player of the Year awards before opting for the NBA Draft after his junior year.
Lowe & Spears have over thirty years of journalism experience between them and are the leading contributors when it comes to ESPN and their NBA journalism efforts. Lowe got his start in 2010 writing a column-blog for Sports Illustrated while Spears got his start for The Denver Post writing about the Nuggets in 1999. Lowe would go on to work under Bill Simmons at Grantland before making his way to ESPN while Spears had stops with The Boston Globe covering the Celtics and Yahoo! covering the NBA. Today, both contribute to podcasts and weekly articles for ESPN.
The Global Vice President of Sports Marketing & Basketball (North America) at Nike, Inc., has become one of the biggest and most influential names around the NBA. Prized for obtaining Lebron James to sign with Nike, Mr. Meritt has become a name that everyone in the NBA knows and respects. Lynn Merritt has also created long-lasting deals and partnerships with the NBA for Nike that has bettered both sides. Mr. Merritt's accomplishments in the business make him one of the most influential people in NBA basketball.
The owner of the Utah Jazz, Gail Miller assumed control of the franchise in 2009 after the passing of her husband and former owner, Larry H. Miller. Since attaining her current position, Miller has transferred ownership of the team and the Vivint Smart Home arena into a Legacy Trust, ensuring the franchise won’t be moved out of Utah. Outside of basketball, Miller has used her approximate $1.75 billion dollars in wealth to aid various philanthropic efforts, including partnering with Utah politicians to push for Utah state electoral reform. Miller is known as being a kind, compassionate, and respected owner and is one of the many owners that uses their wealth to aid disadvantaged communities outside of basketball.
David Minceberg is the Assistant General Manager of the Detroit Pistons. The young basketball genius has found a home in the NBA as a legal and scouting expert. Graduating from UC Berkeley with a law degree, Minceberg has become a master at trade negotiations and contractual law. He has worked for the last three seasons under GM Jon Horst in Milwaukee in the scouting and legal departments. This summer, onn July 9th, Minceberg was hired to help revamp the Detroit Pistons as Assistant General Manager. Expect big things from this front office with Minceberg at the forefront.
For the first time since the Stockton-Malone era, the Utah Jazz are back amongst the NBA contenders, and rising star Donovan Mitchell deserves much of the credit for the franchise’s ascension. The Connecticut native starred in his one year at Louisville before being drafted to Utah with the #13 pick in 2017. Now in his third year, Mitchell has already come 2nd in ROY voting, secured his first all-star bid, won the Slam Dunk Contest, and led the Jazz to the second round of the playoffs. Off the court, Mitchell has a signature shoe, titled the ‘Adidas D.O.N.’, and has launched his own foundation ‘SpidaCares’, a charity focused on empowering women. Mitchell has both the confidence and talent on the court and the grace off of it to continue to develop into the upper echelon of NBA talent.
The current General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Darly Morey, is one of the unique front office minds in all of basketball. Morey began his career as a consultant focusing on sports at EY-Parthenon. Morey then served three years with the Celtics as SVP of Operations, concentrating on complicated analytics to enhance decisions in the draft, trading market, and free agency. After joining the Rockets in 2006 as assistant GM, he was promoted to GM a year later and has held the position ever since. Morey was the first GM to be hired in the NBA with non-traditional basketball experience, with his hire coming on the heels of the Moneyball trend started by Billy Beane with the Oakland Athletics; an approach that emphasized analytic based thinking. In his stint with the Rockets, Morey has made marquee trades for James Harden, Chris Paul, and Russel Westbrook, and won NBA Executive of the Year in 2018. In this most recent season, Houston has doubled-down on his patented “small-ball approach” by not utilizing a traditional Center in the starting lineup. Morey is one of the brightest and most innovative minds in the entire NBA, with his willingness to employ non-traditional tactics making him one of the most talented front office minds in today’s game.
Bob Myers has made a tremendous impact on the NBA as an agent and in the front office. After his playing career at UCLA, Myers spent 14 years as an agent; as the Vice President of SFX Sports and the last five with Wasserman Media Group, where he was renowned for his contract negotiation and recruitment of high-profile players. After representing clients including Kendrick Perkins and Brandon Roy, Myers was hired as the assistant General Manager of the Golden State Warriors, and promoted to General Manager twelve months later. Considered the architect of the Golden State dynasty, Myers made key decisions such as hiring Steve Kerr, drafting Draymond Green, and signing Steph Curry to a team-friendly extension in 2012. He earned recognition as the NBA Executive of the Year after the 2014-2015 NBA season, and is widely known as one of the top executives in the league.
Although many NBA fans will see the last name Nelson and associate it with his father, Don, one of the winningest coaches in NBA history, Donnie Nelson has had a significant impact on the game in his own right. Nelson got his start with various positions with his father’s teams, ranging from regional scout to top assistant. In 1998, Nelson joined the Mavericks as their general manager, and throughout his tenure the Mavericks have accrued a 66% winning percentage, with a franchise-record 67 wins in the 2007 season. Nelson constructed the 2011 NBA Champion team, striking trades for key players such as Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and Tyson Chandler. Recently, Nelson has expedited the Mavericks rebuild through drafting superstar Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. It is fair to say that as long as Nelson is at the helm making moves of the Texas franchise, Dallas will always be one of the elite organizations.
One of the most decorated players of this century, Chris Paul has been dominating opposing point guards ever since he entered the NBA in 2005. After spending three years at Wake Forest, ‘CP3’ was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets with the #4 pick and has since spent time with the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, and now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul is a 10x All-Star, 4x All-NBA First Team, and 7x All-NBA Defensive First Team member. Recently, he has endured a career renaissance, leading the Thunder to the playoffs and putting himself in the MVP conversation. The North Carolina native is known to be a great leader on and off the court; he is the president of the NBPA and worked tirelessly in the recent months to help organize the NBA’s restart. A guaranteed Hall of Famer, the only thing now missing on Paul’s mantle is a Larry O’Brien Championship.
One of the best success stories in the history of the NBA business, Rich Paul, went from selling throwback jerseys out of his car in Cleveland to the owner of one of the most successful sports agencies in America. Paul is a trailblazer and continues to do amazing things throughout the NBA landscape and Sports World. His company represents many of the top NBA players including Lebron James, Anthony Davis and many more. Rich Paul has a vast number of successful clients that have led him to his stardom and reputation in the NBA. He has been a part of the biggest free agency signings in the NBA of late and represents some of the other key pieces on top of LeBron James to ultimately change the look of the NBA in terms of which teams his clients ultimately pick in free agency. At only 39 years old, Rich Paul is making headlines on a monthly basis and will continue to do great things throughout the NBA landscape.
Former agent to Kobe Bryant and many others at The Landmark Sports Agency, LLC, Rob Pelinka decided to join forces with Bryant's former team, Los Angeles Lakers, and is currently the Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the organization. He was pivotal in recruiting Lebron James and pulling off the blockbuster trade to acquire Anthony Davis, who seemed unstoppable this year on the Lakers. Pelinka grew up in a basketball family. His father, Robert Pelinka Sr., was a former high school basketball coach who helped him learn the basics and knowledge of the game, which led him to play for the University of Michigan. At the end of his senior season, he found interest in the law and business side of basketball and decided to pursue that rather than a pro career in basketball. He attended the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and Michigan Law School. Then, in 2003, Pelinka represented tons of high-valued prospects such as Carlos Boozer, Derek Fisher, James Harden, and Kobe Bryant. Then, in 2017, Pelinka joined forces with the Lakers and did not look back as success with Lebron James, and the future of the team has set sail as one of the best in the league.
Founder of one of the largest sports apparel companies in the World as well as a significant sponsor of college athletics and grassroots basketball, Kevin Plank undoubtedly has extreme influence on the game. Plank started Under Armour in 1996, selling shirts out of the back of his car and wholesaling to college teams until eventually the company reached $1 billion in annual revenue around 2010. Since 2010,, they are considered one of three biggest pillars in the sports apparel industry. The Under Armour logo is prevalent through all sports in numerous ways, but is commonly seen on the basketball side with Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, and some of the other signature Under Armour athletes. Plank continues to be a tremendous influence on the NBA and WNBA with Under Armour’s investment in the WNBA
One of only five coaches to have won five or more NBA championships, Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coaches of all time, regardless of sport. Coach Pop joined the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach, and was re-hired after a short stint with the Golden State Warriors as general manager and VP of Basketball Operations. The Indiana native soon after hired himself as head coach, and still holds the position today. Throughout his tenure, Popovich and the Spurs have been the model of consistency; they have made the playoffs 22 years in a row, the longest streak of such nature in all four North American sports. Popovich was at the helm of the Spurs dynasty headlined by David Robinson and Tim Duncan, and the more recent championship captained by Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, and a young Kawhi Leonard. He now serves as the head coach of the U.S.A Men’s National Team, and will coach the team in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Known for his humorous and blunt interactions with the media, along with his serious tenor on crucial social justice issues, Popovich is the epitome of class in the NBA. When he chooses to retire, likely in the near future, a spot in Springfield will already be reserved for him marking him as debately the greatest coach in NBA history.
The mastermind behind so many successful Thunder teams, Sam Presti is one of the most intelligent and admired people in the NBA. Playing basketball from a young age, Presti played division III basketball at Wesleyan College and Emerson College. Presti started his long career as an intern with the San Antonio Spurs, where he persuaded many to give french point guard Tony Parker a look in 2002. In 2007, he was named General Manager of the then-Seattle Supersonics, where he has been prized with responsibility for many successful drafts picks and trades to help his team succeed and set up for the future. Sam Presti still has such a bright future ahead of him and will continue to be one of the most prominent and successful players in the future of the NBA business.
One of the longest tenured high level executives in the NBA, Pritchard has more than earned his keep and respect throughout the league. After a seven year NBA playing career, Pritchard took on a scouting role for the San Antonio Spurs under RC Buford. It was a peak of the franchise and it was here where Pritchard learned some of his greatest lessons that he has ultimately applied as the general manager of the Portland Trailblazers and now with the Indiana Pacers. Pritchard has been credited with some great draft picks of the years for the Pacers and has done well in trades and free agency. Many publicly criticized his trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for reliable starters in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. However, both Oladipo and Sabonis have since turned out to be NBA All-Stars. The Pacers have reaped the benefits because of it and remain one of the consistent teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Abdur-Rahim has served as the President of the NBA G League and it’s 30 teams since 2018 after previously serving as the NBA’s VP of Basketball Operations. He took over during a time when the NBA G League had seen remarkable growth and has continued that initiative. When hired, one of Abdur-Rahim’s primary responsibilities was to oversee the newly established professional path, which allows players to make the transition from high school to the professional ranks of the G League. He has been able to capitalize on this responsibility with the additions of highly touted high school players like Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix and more. Abdur-Rahim was a prominent NBA player for twelve seasons out of the University of Cal Berkeley. He was a one-time NBA All-Star and averaged 18.1 PPG and 7.5 RPG during his career.
Considered one of the brightest young minds in the NBA executive world, Redden has played a key role in the rebuild of the Los Angeles Clippers over the past three seasons and has been coveted to do so for other teams having recently turned down an offer to become the New Orleans Pelicans general manager. The Clippers are one of the league’s hottest teams in 2020 with their new player additions, growing love around the country, and their initiative to expand their brand in the Los Angeles community. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Redden spent his early years in the NBA with Cleveland Cavaliers as a scout and VP of Basketball Operations for ten seasons before moving to his current position with the Clippers. He was a part of the Cavs’ championship team in 2016.
After purchasing the Atlanta Hawks for an estimated $800 million in 2015, The billionaire private equity tycoon and venture capitalist, Anthony Ressler, has quickly gained respect in the NBA. While he is the majority owner, the group also includes Grant Hill, Sara Blakely, Jesse Itzler, Steven Price, and Rick Schnall. The Columbia graduate co-founded the private equity firm Apollo Global Management in 1990 and Ares Management in 1997. Ressler is also a minority owner in the Milwaukee Brewers of the MLB.
The fifth most winningest coach in NBA history, Pat Riley, has one of the most profound impacts on the NBA ever. An NBA veteran, Pat Riley played for nine years for the San Diego Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix Suns. Then, Riley switched to coaching, where he spent 29 years with three different teams (Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat). He was awarded the coach of the year three times, head coach of the All-Star game eight times, NBA Executive of the Year, Hall of Fame member (class of 2008), 2012 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, and was a world champion five times. Riley has influenced so many in the new generation of basketball with his coaching style and influence and creation of his coaching tree that is still expanding today. Today, he acts as the President of Basketball Operations for the Miami Heat, where he was able to recruit the Big Three (Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) and helped the team win three championships as a coach or president. Outside of basketball, Pat Riley is a motivational speaker and has positively affected many in the basketball community. Additionally, Pat Riley has always been active in his Miami community, helping the Miami Heat Charitable Fund build houses and support military personnel and their families.
Glen “Doc” Rivers is one of the most recognizable names in all of the NBA and has made an impact in all facets of the game. Rivers spent four years at Marquette University before being drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Hawks. He went on to play 13 seasons in the league with stops in Los Angeles (Clippers), New York, and San Antonio; he remains the Hawks all time leader in assists. Rivers spent 3 full seasons as coach of the Orlando Magic and one season as a broadcaster before transitioning to his famous position as head coach of the Boston Celtics. In Boston, Rivers led the team to two finals appearances, both against the Lakers, and a championship in 2008. In 2013, he was traded to the Clippers for a 2015 first round pick, where he was hired as head coach, the position he still holds today. Rivers is known as a coach who is respected throughout all levels of the NBA, and he seems destined to lead this current Clippers squad headlined by Kawhi Leonard, to a deep run in the playoffs.
The Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), Michelle Roberts, is one of the highest-ranked employees in the NBA business and has a lasting impact on how much the game has spread and gained popularity across the globe. She is the first woman to hold such a job title in the NBA and the first woman to head a professional sports union in North America. Starting her career in 1980, Roberts worked as a Public Defender in D.C. for eight years before working for Akin Gump and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom before becoming the executive director in 2014. The Washingtonian called her "finest pure trial lawyer in Washington." A Harvard Law School graduate has made a name for herself in every area of the basketball and law world. ESPNW's Impact 25 member, Michelle Roberts, is one of the most influential people, let alone women, in the industry and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
A graduate of Temple University Beasley School of Law, Leon Rose started as an agent at Creative Artist Agency (CAA) representing the likes of LeBron James from 2005 to 2012. Rose, alongside fellow CAA agent Henry Thomas, are largely responsible for the formation of the “original” Big 3 in Miami: LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. In addition to representing “The KIng,” Rose has served as the agent for a host of NBA players including Carmelo Anthony, Victor Oladipo and Chris Paul. Following a front office shakeup this year, the New York Knicks tabbed Leon Rose as the new President of Basketball Operations where he is now responsible for overseeing the rebuilding process of the franchise. He was also inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Former Director of Scouting and Video Analyst for the popular DraftExpress, Mike Schmitz has made a name for himself in the draft and basketball world for years with great and insightful analysis of draftees for almost eight years now. He worked his way up from a Sports Editor at the Arizona Daily Wildcat to a top-rated and respected NBA Draft Analyst for ESPN. Schmitz will continue to climb into fame in the NBA Draft world and continue to get more popular throughout the NBA world. Only a matter of time before the draft genius is running a franchise.
Jeff Schwartz has been immersed in the legal world for three decades, starting out in 1990 as a judicial clerk in bankruptcy court in Los Angeles until becoming an associate at the law firm Cummings & Lockwood. Two years later, Schwartz began as an agent at International Management Group (IMG) representing high level tennis players such as Pete Sampras. In 1999, he joined AMG in order to build their athletics division, helping it become a premier multi-sports agency. After three years at AMG, Jeff Schwartz set out on his own, establishing Excel Sports Management in 2002. Since then he has represented current and former NBA athletes such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Pierce, Kevin Love, C.J. McCollum, and has negotiated over $1.8 billion dollars worth of contracts.
Adam Silver took over as commissioner of the NBA in February of 2014 from the late David Stern, and has gracefully guided the league since that point. Silver, 58 years old, joined the NBA in 1992 and held various positions with the league prior to his promotion, such as the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner, Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Special Assistant to the Commissioner. He was ranked #1 in Sports Business Journal list of ‘50 Most Influential People In Sports Business’ and he continues to do an exemplary job as the face of the NBA’s leadership.
Ben Simmons has emerged as one of the NBA’s brightest young stars ever since he was drafted #1 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers out of LSU in the 2016 NBA Draft. Simmons attended powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida before spending one year in Baton Rouge. The Australian native sat out his first year in the league due to a foot injury but has impressed since taking the court, earning Rookie of the Year in 2018 and making his second All-Star Game appearance this year in Chicago. Although much has been made of Simmon’s lack of outside shot, his freak athleticism, defensive prowess, and passing ability has cemented him as a future MVP candidate and a franchise cornerstone alongside Joel Embiid for the 76ers.
Herb Simon alongside his brother Mel Simon founded the real estate company Melvin Simon & Associates in 1960. This company later transitioned into what is now known as Simon Property Group, the largest real estate investment trust in the world. As co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of SPG, Simon has amassed a substantial fortune that he has spent acquiring the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. In addition to his ownership of these teams, he has also focused his efforts on philanthropic work, having started the Herbert Simon Family Foundation which focuses on addressing issues such as secondary education and environmental relief.
CMO of SC30 Inc. and CEO of Unanimous Media, Jeron Smith, has worked alongside NBA star Stephen Curry to create a media conglomerate that has partnered with the likes of Sony Pictures to produce movies, T.V., and even basketball camps sporting Curry's likeness. Prior to his work with Curry, Smith worked at the White House Office of Digital Strategy under the Obama administration, developing digital content for the President’s online channels as well as the White House. Additionally, he previously worked for Nike Inc. as a Brand Marketing Strategic Lead across multiple territories and continents. In 2015, Forbes included Smith in their "30 under 30" list of rising stars in the business world.
One of the most recognizable voices in the sports world, Stephen A. Smith, has dramatically impacted the sports world and broadcasting media. Smith started on ESPN in 2007 and has not stopped since being the staple of Sportscenter and ESPN First Take for years. He has influenced and impacted so many young broadcasters. Smith's influence and legacy will be heard and seen for hundreds of years and for the rest of NBA history.
The current head coach of the Utah Jazz in the NBA, Coach Quin Snyder has made a name for himself on and off the court throughout his career. A McDonald's All-American as a player, Snyder went on to play for the Duke Blue Devils and was selected captain of that team before turning to finish his degree and attending Law School and Business School. Then, he turned to coach where he moved all over from an assistant with the Clippers, the head assistant coach for CSKA Moscow, to the head coach of the Utah Jazz in 2014. Coach Snyder has led the Jazz to a 227-183 record and has created a Western Conference contender with young stars like Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. With a new contract extension in 2019, Coach Quin Snyder will continue to make a lasting impact on the game as a coach and influencer.
Erik Spoelstra is firmly entrenched as one of the top coaches in the NBA, and has been for the past decade. After a playing career at the University of Portland and a brief stint in Germany, Spoelstra was hired to be the Miami Heat’s video coordinator under newly hired head coach Pat Riley. In just 13 years, coach ‘Spo’ ascended throughout the organization and was hand picked by Riley to succeed him as head coach of Miami in 2008, becoming the first partly Asian-American coach in all four major sports. When Miami acquired the ‘Big 3’ of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Heat did not win the NBA Championship in their first season together and Spoelstra was firmly on the ‘hot seat.’ However, Riley reaffirmed his faith in Spoelstra with a contract extension; this decision yielded two back-to-back NBA Championships for Miami in the following years. Spoelstra has been lauded for his ability to manage the personalities on those Miami Heat teams, and since James’ departure they have still been a staple in the NBA playoffs. From video coordinator to 2x NBA Champion head coach, a deserved rise for Spoelstra.
One of the most renowned NBA writers in the history of basketball, Marc Stein, is a one-of-a-kind reporter respected by all. Starting at California State Fullerton, Mr. Stein has covered the NBA for 26 years with The Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Daily News, The Washington Post, The Orange County Register, San Bernardino Sun, ESPN, and recently, The New York Times. Marc Stein would also make constant T.V. appearances on ESPN. With his 1.3 million followers on Twitter, Marc Stein is one of the most trusted news sources in the NBA. The recipient of the Basketball Hall of Fame's 2019 Curt Gowdy Media Award, Marc Stein, has climbed the job ladder into one of the most respected, successful, and influential NBA reporters in history.
It is hard to believe the accolades that Brad Stevens has to his name at just 43 years old. Stevens joined the Butler University basketball staff in 2000 as a volunteer after his playing career concluded at DePauw University in Indiana. Stevens quickly rose the ranks at Butler, being elevated to full time assistant in 2001 and head coach six years later in 2007. Stevens quickly made his mark in Indianapolis, breaking the NCAA record for most wins in a coach’s first three years. The Bulldogs burst onto the scene as a Cinderella story, losing in the National Championship in heartbreaking fashion in both 2010 and 2011. Stevens accepted the Boston Celtics HC position in 2013, and has since led the NBA’s most storied franchise to multiple Eastern Conference Finals. Stevens is one of the brightest and most talented head coaches in the NBA, and is poised to lead the Celtics to NBA glory.
Under Armour marketing executive Kris Stone has played a key role in the ascension of UA into the upper tier of sports apparel companies. He was responsible for pitching a young Stephen Curry back in 2013 as he prepared for the NBA Draft. His personal, underdog approach was enough to convince Curry to take a chance on the up-and-coming UA and sign an endorsement deal which has manifested itself in the form of a signature sneaker line as well as becoming the face of Under Armour basketball. Before working at UA, Stone served as a grad assistant under Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State and as an ad executive for SLAM Magazine. Stone created the Elite 24 - a one of a kind basketball cultural experience. The Elite 24 gave high school basketball players an opportunity to experience the energy and spirit of authentic playground basketball. Over a ten year span, 54 players from the game went on to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft and four went on to be drafted number one overall.
Mark Tatum is the current Deputy Commissioner of the NBA and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the NBA. He is one of the "Most Influential Minorities in Sports" per Forbes. Coming from a basketball background, Tatum played collegiate basketball at Cornell and then attended Harvard Business School in 1998. Before his NBA position, Tatum worked in marketing and sales for companies such as PepsiCo, The Clorox Company, and Procter & Gamble. His first sport-related job came in the MLB as a Corporate Sponsorship and Marketing employee. He has been a leading reason for the expansion of basketball throughout the world, especially in China. Mr. Tatum is also seen as one of the most influential parts of the success of the NBA G-League and its continuous development and success. Audiences will continue to be introduced to Mark Tatum at the draft lottery and NBA Draft, but Mark Tatum's prized and continued success in the NBA is far from over.
One of the lesser known vastly connected figures throughout the sport, Cline Thomas is part of the who’s who when you talk about players and their money. As the founder and managing partner of Mastry Inc., he specializes in identifying technology, retail, media, and investment opportunities for Fortune 500 companies, early stage start-ups, and professional athletes. He has invested in numerous high level companies like LimeBike, GOAT, and Zoom while also serving on the board of directors for numerous other organizations. Each year, Cline Thomas partners with Bloomberg to create the annual Players Technology Summit, which brings together top leaders from the communities of sport, tech, and venture capital to discuss tech investing. Before embarking on this venture, Cline Thomas was a member of the National Basketball Association’s Consumer Products Group.
Masai Ujiri is the President of Basketball Operations and mastermind behind the 2019 Finals Winners Toronto Raptors. Mr. Ujiri fell in love with the sport at a young age and never turned back. He started to play basketball at 13-years-old and became a Division 1 basketball player for Bismarck State College and Montana State University before returning to his home country of England to begin a professional career in basketball. Ujiri played a season for the Derby Rams and two for the Solent Stars before turning to youth coaching in Nigeria. This led him to years of connection in the scouting and basketball business world. Masai Ujiri went from paying for his rooms to be an unpaid scout to the president of basketball operations for a championship-winning basketball team. Masai has also been one of the most significant activists in the association, founding Giants of Africa in 2003, and directing NBA's Basketball Without Borders Africa Program. The NBA would not be where it is today in the United States and abroad without Masai Ujiri, and he will continue to be one of the most prominent people in the NBA for years to come.
Dubbed as “Cardiac Kemba” during his college playing days at the University of Connecticut, Walker led the Huskies to a national championship in 2011 before being drafted after his junior season. In that season, he was the nation’s second leading scorer, earned First Team All-American honors, and was March Madness’ Most Outstanding Player. He has had stints with the Charlotte Hornets and the Boston Celtics during his nine year NBA career and has earned four straight selections to the NBA All-Star game dating back to 2017. With that being said, it’s safe to say that Walker is in the prime of his career and his four-year $141 million contract with the Celtics is the largest in franchise history.
Bobby Webster is arguably the most influential NBA executive under the age of 40. Webster, a native of Hawaii, got his start in the NBA in 2006, joining the NBA’s front office. During his time working for the league, Webster focused on issues related to the salary cap and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, advising all 30 NBA teams. He joined the Toronto Raptors in 2013 as team president Masai Ujiri’s first hire, under the position of VP of Basketball Management and Strategy. Webster was promoted to General Manager in June of 2017, making him the NBA’s youngest GM. Webster is now an NBA Champion, and played significant roles in the drafting of Pascal Siakam and signing of UFA Fred VanVleet. Webster’s success garnered him consideration for the Chicago Bulls opening of VP of Basketball Operations this spring.
Previously considered one of the most underground and connected figures in the sport, William Wesley, commonly known as World Wide Wes, was hired by the New York Knicks in June to reignite the franchise. While it’s still uncertain how that will play out, one thing is for certain. Wesley’s fingerprints are throughout the sport and have been for some time. He has established himself with some of the league’s top players, agents, executives, and more. Whether it’s conversing with LeBron James over lunch, connecting a player to an agent, or serving as a liaison during the biggest purchases in the sport, you can bet that Wesley has played at least some kind of role. He most recently served as a consultant for Creative Artists Agency.
"The Logo" remains one of the greatest players in NBA history while continuing to build on his legacy post-playing as an NBA executive. West was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1960, going on to win numerous accolades and an NBA championship until his retirement in 1974. Two years later, he took over as coach of the team until 1979. In the ensuing years, he presided over multiple NBA teams as G.M., winning Executive of the Year twice. He is currently an executive board member of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 12-year veteran, Russell Westbrook, is a former MVP and a superstar in the NBA. He has the record for most triple-doubles in a season; he averaged a triple-double for two consecutive seasons and was the first player to lead the league in assists and points in multiple seasons. In only 12 seasons, Westbrook has cemented a place in NBA history and is not close to over. After his time at UCLA, Westbrook was selected 4th overall by the then-Seattle Supersonics. He played 11 years for the Oklahoma City Thunder and helped the team reach the finals once, and consistent playoff appearances throughout his tenure with the league. This year, he is playing his first season with the Houston Rockets and is looking to make a splash in the 2020 playoffs this summer. Westbrook, an influence for young players on the court, has shown consistent good deeds and charitable work in his time off the court. From charity surrounded fashion, his second love, or helping out in Oklahoma or Houston, Russell Westbrook is an example of a standout athlete who uses his platform for good in every way he can.
A former Kansas and Cal basketball star and son of a Naismith Hall of Famer, Omar Wilkes flew onto the basketball business scene as client representation because of his constant professionalism, understanding of the game, and care for his clients. His clients include Trae Young, Cam Reddish, OG Anunoby, and 2020 NBA potential #1 pick, Anthony Edwards. After working for eight years at Octagon, Omar Wilkes was named the head of basketball for Klutch Sports in June 2020. Wilkes is one of the top young agents in the NBA and will continue to have tremendous influence over the NBA.
While the New Orleans Pelican rookie is still fresh to the NBA, there is no questioning the hype and anticipation that surrounds him. Williamson is one of the most exciting players in the world and has already entered an elite fraternity when it comes to endorsement deals. He is currently ranked in the top five in endorsement money with deals ranging from NBA 2K, Mercedes-Benz, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade. In addition, ticket prices in New Orleans have doubled, Williamson’s following has become stronger, and the media attention has been constant. 2.3 million people watched his debut game for the Pelicans, which was tied for the most watched game so far this season. While it’s still yet to be determined what kind of career Wiliamson will have, one thing is for certain. He has the influence right now.
Perhaps the media member who knows the most about Lebron James, Brian Windhort has been extensively covering ‘King James’ since he was in High School. Windhorst attended the same high school as James, St. Vincent-St.Mary High School, and he began to cover the high school sensation after graduating from Kent State University in 2000. Windhorst went on to cover James as a beat writer for the Plain Dealer, and published a book with Terry Pluto, The Franchise:Lebron and the Remaking of the Cavaliers. Windhorst joined ESPN in 2010, coinciding with James’ move to join the Miami Heat, and he specifically joined ESPN Cleveland and WKNR AM 850 in Ohio after Lebron returned to the Cavaliers. Windhorst regularly contributes columns to ESPN.com, while also appearing frequently on programs such as SportsCenter and First Take. At just 42, Windhorst is one of the most established and respected NBA media figures.
Famous for his “Woj Bombs” amongst the NBA and it’s fans, Adrian Wojnarowski has been the leading source for breaking news and rumors within the NBA landscape. Whether it’s announcing draft picks before they happen, breaking big trades, or earth shattering free agent deals, Wojnaroski has been the go to for any follower of the NBA. He has had stops at Yahoo! Sports, The Record, and the Fresno Bee. In 2006, he wrote a New York Times best-seller, The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty and has been named a columnist of the year on numerous occasions throughout his career. He got his start working for the largest daily newspaper in the state of Connecticut, the Hartford Courant, in high school and college.
Trae Young first emerged into the national focus as a one-and-done freshman at the University of Oklahoma where he led Sooners to a March Madness appearance in addition to leading the Big 12 in both points per game and assists per game, and being named consensus first-team All-American. Selected fifth overall by the Dallas Mavericks, Young was subsequently traded to Atlanta where he has made a significant impact on the team and the NBA in his short, two year career. Young has already been selected to the 2020 All-Star Game, All-Rookie First Team, and become the leader and franchise cornerstone of the Atlanta Hawks. The sharpshooter grew up in a basketball family as his father played professional basketball in Europe. Young has shown himself to be one of the premier point guards in the NBA and projects to only get better as he develops.
Jeremy Zimmer, co-founder and CEO of United Talent Agency has represented high profile entertainers such as Chris Pratt, Harrison Ford, and Kevin Hart. In 2019, Zimmer reached an agreement with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports Group to bring Paul's agency under the UTA umbrella, while retaining its own branding and identity. The backing of Zimmer's company has allowed Klutch to expand its sports influence and reach even further than before. Zimmer is making major moves in the NBA sphere and runs one of the top agencies in the World.