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SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
If Chris Granger ever gets tired of running the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department, he might consider putting himself in charge of team mascots. After all, one of his first jobs out of college was dressing as “Garfield The Cat” at character breakfasts in Orlando.
“After college I wanted to work for Disney, so I packed up my car and drove to Orlando assuming they would welcome me with open arms,” Granger said. “But they did not.”
After eight months, Granger ditched the character breakfast circuit when Disney hired him into the company’s management training program. Five years and a variety of executive jobs later, Granger left Disney for business school at Yale. He joined the NBA in 1999 after he met David Stern when the NBA commissioner spoke at the business school.
“I introduced myself and two days later, his office asked that I call him,” Granger said. “I was a big fan but I didn’t know the business of sports. But then I met with everyone at the NBA and made up a little job for myself. Now it is 11 years later and it has led to the greatest things.”
As senior vice president of team marketing and business operations, Granger and his department function as an in-house business consultant to the NBA, WNBA and D-League. He was promoted to his current job in August 2008, not long before the recession. Typically, the forward-thinking Granger saw the economic downturn as an opportunity to help teams learn new ways of doing business.
“It has been the best time to get the job,” Granger said. “It has required everyone to think differently and that would have never happened if that challenge hadn’t been so great.”
Granger has helped prevent any major erosion of NBA ticket sales and has led new efforts such as selling sponsorships on NBA practice jerseys and corporate branding on WNBA game jerseys.
“Chris is super smart and is extraordinarily professional,” said NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. “He has unlimited capacity, which he applies to every project he oversees. He has endless potential on top of the enormous success he’s already had.”