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Volume 20 No. 42
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Ayala Deutsch, NBA

t’s been a whirlwind year for Ayala Deutsch, who as executive vice president and deputy general counsel for the NBA is closely involved with the league’s business initiatives.

Ayala Deutsch
NBA // Executive vice president and deputy general counsel

Topping her list of duties managing the league’s commercial legal affairs and intellectual property matters is running point for legal issues related to the NBA’s apparel deal with Nike that begins this season.

“We have a lot of people working on that,” she said of the league’s Nike deal. “We have the commercial deal itself, and we are working closely with Nike in protecting those rights and preventing the sale of counterfeit jerseys. It is across a number of different fronts.”

Deutsch, who joined the NBA in 1998 and now leads a staff of about 35, is also involved in the legal matters related to the NBA giving group marketing rights back to the National Basketball Players Association as part of the league’s collective-bargaining agreement with the union.

Both Nike and the player rights deal are among the league’s biggest business efforts heading into the 2017-18 season. Deutsch also is managing legal issues related to other merchandising, media and intellectual property matters.

“It’s been real energizing,” Deutsch said of her role with the league. “It’s been great to still be in the same place but to have a whole new job. It’s an ever-changing working environment.”

— John Lombardo

  • Where born: Brooklyn.
  • Education: Queens College (CUNY), B.A.; NYU School of Law, J.D.
  • Attribute I look for when hiring: The ability to stay calm and positive in stressful situations and not to focus on how overwhelming the problem at hand might be, but on finding solutions.
  • Networking tip I’ve learned: Find a way to be authentic.
  • Best advice I’ve received for career development: Always consider yourself a work in progress. My dad was an engineer, and at the time he passed away he oversaw a lot of people and projects. I told him how knowledgeable I thought he was and how I aspired to master everything about my profession the way he had with his. My dad said there was always something more to know, something new to experience and that the greatest success comes from being a “work in progress” — knowing that your “mastery” is never complete and still wanting to learn and grow, no matter how successful you are.
  •  Sports business industry can foster a healthier work-life balance by: Doing a better job recognizing that even though fans are engaging with sports 24/7, the expectation for those who work in sports shouldn’t be to match that.
  • If I had it to do over again, I would: Take some time between college and law school to work full time and experience “real life” outside of school (I graduated college at 19 and started law school a few months later at 20).
  • Is discussion about challenges women face working in sports necessary or played out? I think the discussion about challenges women face in the workplace continues to evolve, but I don’t believe that discussion is played out in any industry.
  • Charities supported: Susan G. Komen Greater NYC (breast cancer education, treatment and research) and Legal Outreach (programs for youth from underserved communities in NYC to facilitate success in higher education).