Jeanie Buss, President & Owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, speaks during an interview with Lakers.com. Courtesy of nba.com/lakers.
While NBA front offices are nowhere close to having equal gender representation, women around the league are becoming more and more powerful with each passing season. For a long time, Sheila Johnson, the founding partner of BET and the Vice Chairman and Partner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Washington Wizards, was one of the few female executives in the sport. A watershed moment came in 2014, when Michele Roberts was named the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, becoming not only the first woman to hold that position, but the first to head a major professional sports union in North America.
Now, in an era where the league's strategic expansion into both basketball and non-basketball initiatives has never been more lucrative, many of the most successful teams in the NBA employ high-ranking female executives. Using exclusive org chart data, The Org has identified seven of the most powerful women in NBA front offices.
Lara Price: Chief Operating Officer, Philadelphia 76ers
One of the longest-tenured female executives in basketball, Lara Price has been with the 76ers since 1996, when she started as the Director of Marketing. Since then, she's seen an ownership change, earned several big promotions, and is now one of the most powerful people in the organization as the COO.
Her role in Philadelphia is multi-faceted, but Price's main responsibilities include business operations and working as a liaison between the business and basketball arms of the organization. She was a key player in developing of the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey, which opened in 2016. Home to both basketball and business operations, it's one the largest and most technically-advanced training facilities in professional sports.
Gillian Zucker: President of Business Operations, Los Angeles Clippers
The former President of racetrack California Speedway, Gillian Zucker became the first top-level female executive in franchise history when she was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 as President, Business Operations. She was the first major hire under the new ownership of Steve Ballmer and handles the team’s business dealings, ticketing, marketing, and sponsorships.
Looking forward, Zucker is working alongside Ballmer to oversee the development of future home of the Clippers, the Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Center, set to open in 2024.
Cynt Marshall: CEO, Dallas Mavericks
The first Black female CEO in NBA history, Cynt Marshall has been running operations for the Dallas Mavericks since 2018. Brought in after a devastating cultural scandal, Marshall has worked on making the org chart in Dallas more diverse and inclusive. There were no women or people of color on the Mavericks’ leadership team when Marshall started and today 50% are women and 47% are people of color, a spokesperson told CNBC.
Melissa Proctor: EVP & CMO, Atlanta Hawks
A longtime director and VP at Turner Broadcasting, Melissa Proctor was hired as the Atlanta Hawks' VP, Brand Strategy in 2014. In 2016, she was named Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer and now has a huge influence on the day-to-day in Atlanta. Proctor runs marketing efforts for both the Hawks and the team's home, State Farm Arena, and also oversees things like video content, fan experience, game production, and retail.
Jeanie Buss: President & Owner, Los Angeles Lakers
One of the more interesting stories and personalities in all of basketball, Jeanie Buss has been the Controlling Owner and President of the Los Angeles Lakers since 2013. Her father, Jerry Buss, owned the Lakers from 1979 until his death. Afterwards, his stake in the team was passed to his six children via a family trust that Jeanie now leads. The Lakers did not make the playoffs from 2013 to 2019, but won the 2019-20 NBA Championship behind the key acquisitions of forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as well as General Manager Rob Pelinka.
One of her top executives is Linda Rambis, the Executive Director of Special Projects who has been with the organization since 1999. The two have worked together closely on several entertainment projects, including an upcoming behind-the-scenes look at the Lakers on Showtime.
Amy Brooks: President, Team Marketing & Business Operations and Chief Innovation Officer, NBA
While technically not a team executive, Amy Brooks is as entrenched in basketball circles as anyone. A former Product Manager for Sun Microsystems and a Consultant for Bain & Company, Brooks has been with the NBA since 2005. Her titles have grown more complex by the year, but as of 2017, she's the President, Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO) and Chief Innovation Officer. It's a massive role. Brooks drives business growth and global strategic priorities, as well as profitability strategy for the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, and NBA 2K League.
She holds both an M.B.A. and a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, where she won three conference championships as member of the women’s basketball team.
Matina Kolokotronis: COO, Sacramento Kings
The former President of Business Operations for the Sacramento Kings, Matina Kolokotronis became the first woman in the NBA to hold the titles of both COO and President of Business Operations when she was promoted to COO in 2016. She has a background in sports and government law has been with the organization for almost 20 years. Similarily to Lara Price, Kolokotronis was able to use an ownership change as a fulcrum for more organizational opportunities, and she is now one of the top decision makers in Sacramento.
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