The National Basketball Association (NBA) stands as one of the most prominent leagues in sports. Through its games, teams and players, the league commands considerable attention and following. As the overseer of this enterprise stands the NBA Commissioner. The words and actions of this leader can influence the course of the professional and college game and even beyond sports. At present, only five men have carried this title. Those who have served and may seek to be a Commissioner must display a multifaceted skill set and spend significant time immersed in the operations of the league. This guide will go into further details regarding the NBA Commissioner job description.
What Does a NBA Commissioner Do?
The NBA Commissioner guards the integrity and standing of the league. The Commissioner is primarily accountable to franchise owners, but considers many stakeholders in performing the duties of the position. In the NBA Commissioner job description rests requirements of dealing with media, the public and players in addition to owners.
NBA Commissioner Job Description for Resume — Responsibilities
- Negotiate contracts for game broadcasts, sponsorships and franchise ownership or participation
- Discipline players for violation of league rules, including personal conduct policy or misbehavior in games, consistent with collective bargaining agreement
- Review suspensions of players
- Provide guidelines, recommendations and other assistance to owners in connection with making rules, including on draft eligibility and conduct of games
- Oversee scheduling of games
- Grant media interviews
- Hire league front office personnel
- Respond to lawsuits against the league or initiate lawsuits by the league
- Preside over draft of NBA prospects
NBA Commissioner Required/Essential Skills
Analysis. In advising owners on rules, the Commissioner must understanding the impact of those rules. The Commissioner must analyze the effect of scheduling on fatigue of players and decisions by coaches to rest players, especially during highly-anticipated and nationally-televised games. Analytical skills also involve interpreting fan and corporate sponsor reactions to various rules and actions.
Communication. The NBA Commissioner makes many public comments and appearances. Remarks and answers to questions must be clear and carefully worded to avoid misunderstanding, embarrassment to the league or potential litigation.
Multitasking. Major sports organizations such as the NBA encounter multiple issues in a single time period. The skill of multitasking includes delegating certain actions, meticulous time scheduling and the ability to set several tasks into motion and monitor their progress.
Negotiation. The NBA Commissioner must parlay the league’s strengths, such as the popularity of its best players and the quality of games, into the best possible sponsorship and broadcast deals.
Public Relations. To promote the NBA and preserve its image, the Commissioner must address concerns of fans and media with regard to player conduct and the quality of games.
Becoming a NBA Commissioner
The NBA’s Board of Governors select the Commissioner. To be chosen or even considered requires extensive expertise and experience handling legal and other disputes and familiarity with the league and basketball.
Education and Training
At a minimum, an NBA commissioner must hold a bachelor’s degree. The current and past commissioners represent the legal profession and one served as a Postmaster General, presidential advisor and national chairman of a major political party.
Legal experience often proves very valuable for a major professional league commissioner. With a legal background, a commissioner can understand the authority to discipline players and how to negotiate matters such as broadcast rights. Other majors may include sports management and business administration; MBAs can make good candidates for league office position.
An NBA Commissioner can train for the necessary tasks of the role through working in another profession. For those with a legal background, training may include clerkships or internships with law firms or court offices. Business students may occupy summer jobs in corporate offices or departments, such as marketing or sales.
An aspiring commissioner may build experience by working in the NBA league office. A ten-week internship program allows college students exposure to the NBA’s office operations. Candidates for these positions may be pursuing MBA or law degrees. Under the NBA’s “Associate Program,” recent college graduates participate in a two-year training in various business activities of the NBA.
Helpful work experience may also include law practice, particularly in litigation, negotiation, arbitration or mediation. Executive experience in business or other large organizations can allow a future candidate to showcase the ability to manage numerous people and entities and deal with the media and public.
An NBA Commissioner works year-round as NBA operates even beyond the playing season. Accounting for the regular season and playoffs, NBA games run from October to June. The NBA draft comes within a few weeks after conclusion of the NBA Finals, while free agency occupies the period between the draft and the start of the following preseason. Further, the Commissioner may have some oversight over the WNBA and the NBA-G (development league), which operate under the auspices of the NBA.
The Commissioner can expect long hours and frequent travel. During the season, the Commissioner may travel to certain games and appears during “All-Star” festivities. Sports radio and television hosts may interview the Commissioner at the beginning of the season or to get reactions to developments in the sport or which affect the league.
With only five commissioners in league history, prospects for becoming one appear slim. Those who occupy the post have a long tenure and turnover typically is rare.
Where an opening occurs, candidates may come from the ranks of the NBA front office. Before being promoted, the current commissioner was the Deputy Commissioner.
The NBA Commissioner holds a unique opportunity to impact not only the league, but basketball and sports in general. Becoming the Commissioner requires years of involvement in the league and its inner workings and skills to gain the confidence team owners.