• Sports League of the Year: NBA

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    Commissioner Adam Silver accepts League of the Year honors for the NBA.
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    This is how successful 2014 was for the NBA: Even when things turned south, the league and its franchises ended up looking like gold.

    And that’s why the NBA took home honors for Sports League of the Year at the Sports Business Awards, for executing a yearlong winning streak on major fronts time and again.

    But Commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t see it as a streak, just one day after another when the league, its players and employees kept doing the right thing.

    “Every day is a new day, and I think I learned that from David Stern,” he said. "Just when things are going well, you never know what’s going to be around the corner, so I tend to keep looking forward, not back.”

    Most notably, the NBA signed a new nine-year, $24 billion media deal with Turner and ESPN/ABC that nearly tripled the value of the current rights deal. But also consider the saga of the Los Angeles Clippers, who stood at the center of a scandal when recordings emerged of owner Donald Sterling’s racist remarks. It ended with the team selling for $2 billion, a record franchise deal that raised the tide for all teams.

    Silver knows it can’t last. “I’ve been at the NBA now for almost 23 years, so I’ve seen plenty of bad days over the years, and I think I’m as well prepared for them as anybody,” Silver said, moments before collecting his personal trophy for Executive of the Year.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Team of the Year: Los Angeles Kings

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    Los Angeles Kings President Luc Robitaille
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    The Los Angeles Kings won the 2015 Sports Business Award for team of the year, following a streak of on- and off-the-ice success.

    Luc Robitaille, Kings president of business operations, said the award was particularly gratifying because of its focus.

    “It’s a team award, and that’s what this organization is about, from the players on the ice to everyone who makes us successful behind the scenes,” he said. “We’ve tried to push the envelope with things like bringing an outdoor game in Southern California, so it’s a great moment to celebrate what we've been able to accomplish as a group.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Sports Media: ESPN

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    ESPN's John Wildhack
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    ESPN completed a sweep of the Sports Business Awards’ media categories by winning Best in Sports Media. It marks only the second time in the SBA’s eight-year history that the same company swept all three sports media awards; NBC Sports Group won all three last year.

    ESPN was honored for a year that saw it sign several big rights deals, including paying, with Turner, $24 billion over nine years for the NBA, and paying, with Fox, $600 million over eight years for the MLS. John Wildhack, executive vice president of programming and production, accepted the award, praising other nominees in the category: Fox Sports, the NFL, NBC Sports and Turner Sports. “There’s never been a better time to be a sports fan,” he said.

    ESPN also was honored in the Best in Sports Media category for its over-the-top deals, including being part of Dish Network’s Sling TV service, carrying the Cricket World Cup and collecting the OTT rights to the MLS and NBA.

    ESPN also pioneered the megacast coverage around the College Football Playoff National Championship, which provided 12 different productions across its linear and digital channels.

    Wildhack gave a shout-out to ESPN’s employees. “It’s a great night for our people. We have the broadest, deepest and most diverse portfolio in the entire industry, and we’re proud of that.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Sports Television: ESPN

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    ESPN's Burke Magnus
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    ESPN took home Sports Business Award honors for Best in Sports Television, its second award of the night. ESPN was honored for a year that saw the network pull in a record-high cable TV audience to the College Football Playoff and record high audiences to the World Cup in Brazil.

    Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling, accepted the award, saying that it represented the hard work from ESPN’s 7,000 employees. He quoted former ESPN President George Bodenheimer: “The culture at ESPN is our greatest advantage.”

    In addition to its record audiences around the CFP and World Cup, ESPN had a stellar year behind the camera. In May, it launched the $178 million Digital Center 2 in Bristol, which allowed it to relaunch its “SportsCenter” franchise and breath new life into its studio shows.

    Magnus said he was surprised and thought that SEC Network was going to win the award. “Mike Slive’s vision and his legacy is why the channel is so successful,” Magnus said.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Athletic Director of the Year: Jeff Long, University of Arkansas

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    University of Arkansas AD Jeff Long
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long heard his name called, worded an eloquent speech, posed for a few photos — and then it sunk in.

    “You’re floating on a cloud up there on that stage, but now it’s starting to hit me,” the choked-up, freshly named Athletic Director of the Year award winner said backstage. “It really is an emotional moment for me.”

    Long received the honor in large part due to his ability to run a top-tier Division I program while simultaneously serving as the inaugural College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair.

    The key to his success? “It’s a team effort. It’s been a fantastic experience for me to let go a little bit, and a fantastic experience for my senior leaders who get to take on a larger role in my absence.”

    Long watched games Saturday, watched replays of matches Sunday and prepared for the committee meetings from Monday until midnight Tuesday night, all while leading Arkansas to an $8 million profit. And yes, he will be doing it all over again next year, having already been re-elected to lead the selection committee.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Facility of the Year: Levi's Stadium

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    The 49ers’ Al Guido
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    Officially, the Sports Business Award is for a given year. But for San Francisco 49ers Chief Operating Officer Al Guido, Wednesday night was a celebration for the ages.

    “I think we’re celebrating a decade here, there’s no question,” a beaming Guido said after Levi’s Stadium won the Best Facility honors.

    Indeed, the stadium’s long, difficult road to opening day started in 2006, a time when the odds didn’t look good thanks to a noncompetitive football team holding down enthusiasm, an awful economic climate and intense political headwinds against public financing.

    But the stadium opened a year ahead of schedule. It now boasts a rejuvenated fan base, a bevy of high-profile events like Wrestlemania and world-renowned technology and environmentally sustainability design features.

    Guido spread the credit around far and wide, from the every segment of the 49ers organization, to its fans that lined up to buy seat licenses long before the team’s return to winning. But he also praised the Cowboys, Jets and Giants for innovating new paths to private financing.

    Guido wants to build a great stadium brand, but that doesn’t happen on construction alone. It takes great events. And Guido’s team has to keep aiming high and locking down top-flight events, he said.

    But in the meantime, “Something tells me I’m going to pour a lot of champagne into this thing,” Guido said, gesturing to the trophy.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Aaaaand cut! Congrats to all 2015 SBA winners

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    Tags: On the Ground, Sports Business Awards
  • Recipients of the 2015 Sports Business Awards

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    A look at the all of the winners at the Sports Business Awards tonight at the Marriott Marquis Times Square:

    Best in Digital Sports Media: ESPN Digital Media

    Best in Sports Event and Experiential Marketing: Momentum Worldwide

    Sports Facility of the Year: Levi’s Stadium

    Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services: Learfield Sports

    Sports Event of the Year: 2015 College Football Playoff

    Best in Sports Technology: Zebra Technologies

    Best in Talent Representation and Management: Excel Sports Management

    Lifetime Achievement Award: Dick Ebersol

    Sports Team of the Year: Los Angeles Kings

    Best in Sports Television: ESPN

    Athletic Director of the Year: Jeff Long, University of Arkansas

    Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services: Octagon

    Sports League of the Year: NBA

    Best in Sports Media: ESPN

    Sports Sponsor of the Year: AT&T

    Sports Executive of the Year: Adam Silver, NBA

    Tags: On The Ground
  • More from Twitter as the ceremony winds down

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    Tags: Sports Business Awards, On the Ground
  • Best in Sports Technology: Zebra Technologies

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    Zebra Technologies' Jill Stelfox
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    Zebra Technologies is not used to being thrust into the spotlight. “We’re a huge company,” said Jill Stelfox, vice president and general manager of location solutions, “but we’re always behind the scenes. So something this big, this public, we’re normally not this cool, so it’s really awesome.”

    This year’s Best in Sports Technology award winner had never crossed over into sports until just last year when it partnered with the NFL to implement its tracking capabilities. Besting a group that includes the likes of ESPN, SAP, Daktronics, MLB Replay Operations Center and OneTwoSee is no small feat, but it’s also just the beginning.

    “Player tracking has been around for three years in totality,” Stelfox said. “It’s such a new thing and there’s so much to learn. Every league worldwide is going to have to make a statement on player tracking, and everyone’s going to want more and more and more. I think it’s this firehose that’s going to open up over the next 24 months. And it’s going to be a wave, because it takes time to put the infrastructure in, but once it’s in place, the data just keeps coming.”

    Tags: On The Ground
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