Executives driving business across the NBA this season
League and Teams
Joe Tsai, owner, Brooklyn Nets / Barclays Center
David Levy, CEO, Brooklyn Nets / Barclays Center
Tsai took over full ownership of the Nets and Barclays Center from Mikhail Prokhorov for a total price of $2.35 billion. Changes in business strategy and personnel are expected as the group puts its imprint on the franchise. As former Turner Sports President Levy steps in as CEO, it bears watching how the longtime sports media executive adapts to running an NBA franchise.
Kate Jhaveri, chief marketing officer, NBA
Hired in July, Jhaveri comes to the league from Twitch, where she led the company’s marketing efforts. She replaces former NBA CMO Pamela El, and it’s likely that Jhaveri’s marketing strategy will feature a strong digital presence.
Kelly Krauskopf, assistant general manager, Indiana Pacers
Krauskopf spent nearly 20 years with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever before the Pacers hired her on Jan. 1 as assistant general manager. She is now one of the highest-ranking female basketball operations executives among the league’s 30 teams. The well-respected Krauskopf is a trendsetter as the NBA pushes to add more women in top leadership positions.
Nic Barlage, president of business operations, Cleveland Cavaliers
At 35, Barlage is the youngest team president in the NBA and this year, he opens the newly named Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse following the completion of a $185 million arena renovation. Barlage is charged with keeping the Cavaliers’ revenue on the upswing in the team’s post-LeBron James era that this offseason brought the hiring of former University of Michigan coach John Beilein to lead the Cavs.
Kim Stone, general manager, Chase Center
Stone left her job as executive vice president of business development for the Miami Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena to become GM of the Chase Center, the glittering new home of the Golden State Warriors. She brings more than 12 years of experience to San Francisco, where the stakes are high in running the $1.3 billion facility that the Warriors want to make a global entertainment destination.
Ted Leonsis, owner, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which includes the Washington Wizards
Leonsis this offseason overhauled the Wizards front office and created a new entity in Monumental Basketball. That included the promotion of longtime executive Tommy Sheppard to general manager and hiring former Cleveland Browns executive Sashi Brown as chief planning and operations officer. Leonsis also added former Georgetown University men’s basketball head coach John Thompson III to head up a new athlete development and engagement department. It bears watching what impact Leonsis’ revamped structure will have on the Wizards, which last year posted a 32-50 record.
Shizuka Suzuki, assistant vice president of sponsorships and experiential marketing, AT&T
Sponsorship or content rights? Figuring out how to artfully combine those two — and appealing to those using mobile devices as a remote control for their lives — is the challenge facing “Shiz” as AT&T begins its first full season as an NBA corporate sponsor, and its first without rival Verizon sharing league rights.
Peter Gallo, vice president of e-commerce, Fanatics
Continued exploitation of hot-market “micro-moments,” the NBA’s growing global fandom, and the unprecedented levels of interest in free agency are just a few of the things generating visits to NBAStore.com, which Gallo helps oversee. He’ll also have to adjust product demand for heralded rookie Zion Williamson.
Charece Williams-Gee, head of NBA and hoops partnerships, PepsiCo Sports
The marriage of Pepsi’s Mountain Dew to a brand as ascendant as the NBA has been one of the most intriguing sponsorship stories since Pepsi wrested NBA league rights from Coke four years ago. Williams-Gee, a former Wasserman and Disney marketer, is helping balance the mix of supporting NBA marketing assets in what’s easily the most player-driven league.
Lindsay Ulrey, vice president, global sports experiences and partnerships, American Express
American Express is one of the NBA’s oldest sponsors, but the card issuer’s portfolio also includes top-shelf events such as the U.S. Open (golf and tennis), Fashion Week and Coachella. So the key for Ulrey, at AmEx since 2014 and longtime AmEx agency Momentum for nearly four years before that, is to keep the NBA as relevant to her cardholders as those other properties.
Mike Shiffman, vice president/production, ESPN
ESPN is changing its NBA studio show — again! — and Shiffman is the one who orchestrated all of the changes. ESPN will use rotating hosts in Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor, and bring Stephen A. Smith aboard, as it tries to compete with TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”
Jeff Zucker, chairman, WarnerMedia News & Sports
David Levy loved the NBA. He helped grow the league when he was Turner’s president, right up until he resigned this spring. All eyes now are on Zucker to see how he carries that mantle, particularly with “Inside the NBA,” the gold standard in studio shows.
Christopher Ripley, president and CEO, Sinclair Broadcasting
This is the first season that Sinclair, which controls the local TV rights to 16 NBA teams, officially takes over as the owner and operator of the Fox Sports-branded RSNs. Everyone — from league and team officials to advertisers and viewers — is looking to see how Sinclair’s ownership will differ from Fox’s.