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What is Basketball Operations?

Basketball operations is a field of work that monitors a basketball league’s activities on the court. It includes the creation of regular season- and playoff schedules.

Aside from that, basketball operations also regulate rules and rule changes, if deemed necessary.

Enforcement of player conduct and discipline is also part of the job of basketball operations. Specifically, laying out fines and suspensions, and deciding whether or not disciplinary actions should be meted out is a huge element in operations.

How do you get a Job in Basketball Operations?

The most basic pre-requisite for getting a job in basketball operations is extensive knowledge of the game of basketball. This, combined with great leadership, commercial and strategic competencies is a great foundation.

basketball operations

You should have a first-hand experience of playing the sport, whether on a professional level, in college or at a leisurely level.

Closely following the sport is also a given. In order to work as operational staff you most often come from a place of actively playing the sport.

While a lot of people have played basketball, knowing how to run the operations on the business side is a completely other side and skill set.

Usually, people working on basketball operations have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as business management.

The qualifications required for this industry depend on which type of job within the operations is needed.

While entry-level jobs don’t demand relevant work experience, advanced jobs need people who have a significant amount of knowledge and experience.

Titles such as Basketball Operations Managers, Consultants, or Directors, would need a more commercial person for the job. You can’t designate this job to someone who has basketball experience only.


What is a Basketball Operations Consultant?

Basketball Operations Consultants are the people teams consult about when it comes to running basketball operations more efficiently. They serve as the main advisers to the senior leadership team.

Mostly, they discuss what the direction of the company is going, and how they make sure it moves in a better direction.

The consultants’ main job is to strategize on what type of business decisions are needed. And like a basketball team, they delegate their recommendations to individual members of each department within the operations.

Cascading information would then be followed by execution.


How Much does a Basketball Operations Director make?

Basketball Operations Directors are usually near the top of the hierarchy, in terms of basketball operations.

Directors typically earn an average of $59,000 annually (2).

The directors of upper-tier leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) would earn up to $70,000 yearly.

Although the exact amount hasn’t really been disclosed, the estimate based on the progression of salaries from other leagues would be close to that.

For smaller leagues, a realistic figure of $40,000 would be a likely number.


What does the President of Basketball Operations do?

In the NBA, we seldom hear the title of President of Basketball Operations. Most likely, you would hear titles such as Vice President (VP) of Operations, or General Manager.

The President of Basketball Operations is a broad title, but their coverage to overseeing basketball operations is definitely wider than most jobs.

They cover administrative and legal concerns, public relations and marketing, personnel management, and logistics, just to name a few.

The General Manager (GM) directly reports to the President of Basketball Operations. The VP acts as the mediator between the GM and the president.


Famous NBA Players that have held Jobs in Basketball Operations

Although not all players get an opportunity to work for the front office after retirement, there have been numerous NBA players who have worked in basketball operations as their second career.

Malik Rose and David Booth are currently two former NBA players who have been hired in the NBA basketball operations department (5).

Rose and Booth were both hired as Vice President of Basketball Operations in 2019.

Rose played in the NBA from 1996 to 2009. The majority of his playing career was with the San Antonio Spurs, where he played 8 seasons.

Meanwhile, Booth had a less colorful role in the NBA as a player.


The NBA Commissioner

NBA-Commissioner

Among all the executives in basketball operations in the NBA, the Commissioner (3) is the most well-known executive to be at the top of the corporate ladder.

The NBA Commissioner acts in a similar way as the President of the United States works—as the primary and top decision-maker.

He can’t change laws, but he can consult and suggest rule changes to the board of trustees.

The Commissioner is also the face of the front office. Every decision the basketball operations executive needs to make, the Commissioner is the one answering related questions.

The current NBA Commissioner is Adam Silver. He was appointed to succeed David Stern on February 1st, 2014.

In the NBA’s 75-year history, the league has only had five Commissioners to date.

History of NBA Commissioners:

  1. Maurice Podoloff – June 1946 to April 1963
  2. J. Walter Kennedy – May 1963 to May 1975
  3. Larry O’Brien – June 1975 to January 1984
  4. David Stern – February 1984 to January 2014
  5. Adam Silver – February 2014 to present

Among all the NBA Commissioners, David Stern served the longest with exactly 30 years.

Discounting Silver’s current tenure, Larry O’Brien had the shortest term as Commissioner, serving only 8 years and 245 days.

Also, Maurice Podoloff started the NBA in its inception in 1946, his initial title was NBA President. His successor, J. Walter Kennedy changed the title to NBA Commissioner in 1967, and the title stuck ever since.

Despite the short length of tenure, O’Brien had more accomplishments than his two predecessors combined.

He was the first reason the NBA was able to expand from 18 teams to 24, and he became responsible for the wider national media coverage and popularity of the NBA.


NBA General Managers

The General Manager of the NBA is responsible for the franchise off the court. Responsibilities include the overall strategy of the team and transactional movements of players and staff.

If the commissioner is the most popular front office head for basketball operations in the NBA, the General Managers (GM) of NBA teams (4) serve as the face of the franchise off the court.

The GM is primarily responsible for making decisions for the team’s direction, such as trades, draft picks, and free agency pick-ups. 

Several NBA players have ventured out as GMs of their respective teams. Some have been successful, but most were not.

The most well-known GMs who were NBA players are Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Isiah Thomas.

This season, seven former NBA players are representing their teams as General Managers.

They are Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics, Sean Marks of the Brooklyn Nets, Mitch Kupchak of the Charlotte Hornets, Calvin Booth of the Denver Nuggets, Trajan Langdon of the New Orleans Pelicans, Elton Brand of the Philadelphia 76ers, and James Jones of the Phoenix Suns.

Complete List of NBA General Managers for the 2020-21 NBA season:

  • Atlanta Hawks – Travis Schlenk
  • Boston Celtics – Danny Ainge
  • Brooklyn Nets – Sean Marks
  • Charlotte Hornets – Mitch Kupchak
  • Chicago Bulls – Arturas Karnisovas
  • Cleveland Cavaliers – Koby Altman
  • Dallas Mavericks – Donnie Nelson
  • Denver Nuggets – Calvin Booth
  • Detroit Pistons – Troy Weaver
  • Golden State Warriors – Bob Myers
  • Houston Rockets – Rafael Stone
  • Indiana Pacers – Chad Buchanan
  • Los Angeles Clippers – Michael Winger
  • Los Angeles Lakers – Rob Pelinka
  • Memphis Grizzlies – Zack Kleiman
  • Miami Heat – Andy Elisburg
  • Milwaukee Bucks – Jon Horst
  • Minnesota Timberwolves – Scott Layden
  • New Orleans Pelicans – Trajan Langdon
  • New York Knicks – Scott Perry
  • Oklahoma City Thunder – Sam Presti
  • Orlando Magic – John Hammond
  • Philadelphia 76ers – Elton Brand
  • Phoenix Suns – James Jones
  • Portland Trail Blazers – Neil Olshey
  • Sacramento Kings – Monte McNair
  • San Antonio Spurs – R.C. Buford
  • Toronto Raptors – Bobby Webster
  • Utah Jazz – Dennis Lindsey
  • Washington Wizards – Tommy Sheppard

Career opportunities in NBA Basketball Operations

The NBA is open for applicants to work for their basketball operations department.

If you think you have what it takes to work within the NBA’s basketball operations, or if you really love the game so much, you may check out their career portal online.

As mentioned earlier, jobs in basketball operations oversee the league’s on-court activities, development of regular-season and playoff schedules, management of rule changes, and enforcement of player conduct standards and discipline.

Aside from that, the basketball operations department also works closely with Team USA Basketball and FIBA (the International Basketball Federation).

The main objective is to promote the international growth of the game, both on the court and in any form of media.


References:

1. NBA Careers – https://careers.nba.com/

2. Director of Basketball Operations Salary – https://neuvoo.com/salary/?job=Director%20Basketball%20Operations#:~:text=The%20average%20Director%20Basketball%20Operations%20salary%20in%20USA%20is%20%2445%2C000,up%20to%20%2465%2C000%20per%20year.

3. Commissioner of the NBA – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commissioner_of_the_NBA

4. List of General Managers in the NBA – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Basketball_Association_general_managers

5. NBA Staff Members – https://basketball.realgm.com/nba/staff-members/0/League-Office/Current

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