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Volume 22 No. 26
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Turner bullish on D-League’s growth

Turner becomes D-League’s third president on Nov. 12.
For new D-League President Malcolm Turner, the expectation is clear: lead the developmental basketball circuit into a new era.

Turner, who signed on with the D-League last week, had been working for Wasserman Media Group since 2007, most recently heading the company’s golf division. Well-known in sports business circles (and a Harvard Business School classmate of both NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum and Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil), Turner brings a level of a gravitas and a set of credentials that serve to underscore the NBA’s increasing expectations for the D-League.

At a time when the Milwaukee Bucks can sell for $550 million, as they did earlier this year — never mind the Los Angeles Clippers fetching a context-shattering $2 billion price — executives inside the NBA are wondering how much a D-League franchise can be worth. And they’re further encouraged, if not exhilarated, by the $6 million price tag that was paid for the New York Knicks’ new D-League team, which

begins play this season.

The 18-team D-League currently has direct affiliations with 17 NBA clubs. The NBA’s vision is to expand the D-League to 30 teams, with each club having a one-to-one affiliation with an NBA club.

“The D-League is gaining in prominence, and Malcolm has got the perfect background to be able to take it to the next level,” said Tatum, adding that he’d been talking with Turner about the position for about a month. “We needed a senior executive to grow the D-League to 30 teams, and that opportunity is why Malcolm makes so much sense for this role. Our teams are really seeing the value of the D-League now.”

Turner will start on Nov. 12, be based in New York and report to Tatum. Terms of his contract were not available.

A 2007 SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Forty Under 40 honoree, Turner is a former NBA intern with a Harvard MBA and law degree. He worked at the PGA Tour from 1993-95 and was hired in 1999 by Gary Stevenson, former marketing and media president at NBA Properties, to work at his Raleigh-based sports marketing agency, then called OnSport, in corporate consulting.

OnSport was sold to Wasserman Media Group in 2007.

“Malcolm is very prepared for this role as his breadth and depth of experiences and vast industry knowledge are unique,” said Stevenson, who is now president of MLS Business Ventures. “It’s a great hire for the D-League.”

Nathan Grube, longtime tournament director for the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship, said Turner will be well-suited to run the D-League.
“Malcolm is very collaborative and very strategic,” Grube said. “His savvy for understanding nuances in sports is something that I have leaned on.”

Turner replaces Dan Reed, who resigned in July to head global sports partnerships with Facebook. Reed had been D-League president since 2007.

Turner becomes the third president in the D-League’s history, following Reed and Phil Evans. The D-League tips off its 14th season Nov. 14.

“There’s so much potential to grow the D-League and to grow the sport, with the D-League serving as an R&D lab,” said Turner, though also acknowledging that he had yet to attend a D-League game. “I see it as a blank-sheet-of-paper opportunity with tremendous upside to build a really successful stand-alone business. We’re building a brand and a property.”