The 2010 Most Influential In Basketball
Every industry has their own Power Rankings, a list of the most powerful and influential leaders in their respective businesses.
In sports, basketball is often lumped in with the other major sports, so we thought it would be interesting to look at just the game of basketball and more importantly those that are shaping the game today and tomorrow.
There were several things we considered in creating this list – historical achievement was not one of them. What someone did, is not as important as what some are doing in shaping the future of the sport.
While money fuels power and influence, money or earnings alone were not a factor, having money or having closed huge deals in the past was not as big a factor either.
We looked at a combination of things… exposure, real power or influence on decisions, and more importantly new ways to do things. Having the ability to shape public perception, buying habits, and the landscape of how the game is played or marketed trumped other considerations.
There are some real innovators in basketball that are shaping the game and where the game is headed, there is a crop of new players that are capturing the imagination of the fans and markers too.
So with that said, here is the 2010 Top 55 Most Influential In Basketball:
55 – Shimon Mizrahi, President, Maccabi Tel Aviv: Israel is a dominant basketball market and Maccabi is the top team in the country. The Maccabi fan base is worldwide and they have become an attractive launching point for NBA careers and are extremely competitive in luring players away from the NBA. Maccabi will play an instrumental role in whatever European expansion plans the NBA may be considering, as Maccabi is one of the more profitable brands in international basketball.
54 – Donna Orender, President, WNBA: While the WNBA is far from a mainstream hit, the league is growing and awareness of the brand and the sport continues to grow. While the women’s game is nowhere near as popular as the men’s game, the WNBA’s influence on the female sports fans is significant and advertisers and sponsors continue to support the league.
53 – Joe Dumars, General Manager, Detroit Pistons: Dumars is still one of the best executives in the business, despite a down year last year. Dumars’ influence on the game and how other teams build and make transactions is real. It will be interesting to see if all the money he spent this summer yields success and keeps him on this list, or if he slips to the middle tier of executives.
52 – Candace Parker, Player, Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA): She isn’t quite LeBron James, but Parker is a star and her influence over the women’s game is profound. She is extremely marketable, and a very solid basketball player. As the face of the WNBA she will be a key component to growing the WNBA fan base into a more mainstream product.
51. – Lon Babby, Partner, Williams & Connolly: Lon Babby had a solid summer, netting Hedo Turkoglu $53 million in a tough economy. Babby’s client list includes Grant Hill, Ray Allen and Tim Duncan and more than $141 million in guaranteed contract dollars. Baby’s stable of talent is getting thin, but with his track record of landing his clients big dollars he could be poised to land a big player in the 2010 Draft.
50 – John Hollinger, Analyst, ESPN: Hollinger has changed the game in regards to statistical analysis of players. His PER formula is a standard in NBA discussions and it has launched a new era in player evaluations. Hollinger is one of several new generation stat guys (including Roland Beech of 82games.com, Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus) that are changing how the game is viewed from a coaching and performance standpoint and in terms of how players are compensated.
49 – Andy Miller, President and Founder ASM Sports: Miller counts NBA stars Chauncey Billups and Kevin Garnett among his very deep roster of clients. With more than $135 million in guaranteed contract dollars, Miller is one of the power players in the agent business. Miller’s stars are getting older, but Miller’s reputation for taking care of his clients is almost unmatched.
48 – Aaron Goodwin, CEO of Goodwin Sports Management: Goodwin counts NBA mega-star Dwight Howard and future mega-star Kevin Durant as his top shelf clients. However, he has more than $125 million in guaranteed contract dollars and is one of the biggest names in the agent game. As Dwight Howard’s agent he influences the direction of one of the fastest-rising stars in the sports marketing world and will only get stronger as Kevin Durant matures.
47 – Kevin Weinberg, CEO, iHoops: iHoops is still in its infancy, but the vision of the group is profound. Backed by the NBA, the NCAA and virtually every organizing body in basketball, iHoops is tasked with putting together a structure for basketball that should change the game at almost every level. The initial stages will include teaching and certification, but could grow to be a governing body for the sport in the US. With financial support from Nike and adidas, Weiberg will preside over a hefty budget and have the ear of virtually every power player in the game.
46 – NBA Trainers – Grover, Abunassar, Ravin, Thorpe: The four dominant private coaches are Tim Grover (Attack Athletics), Joe Abunassar (Impact Basketball), Idan Ravin and David Thorpe (PTC at IMG Basketball). Collectively these men prepare more than 90% of the NBA’s top players and rookies each summer. Not only do they guide players’ off-season training and development, many of them help promote players to teams both foreign and domestic. NBA head coaches come and go but the relationship these guys have with players in almost every aspect of their careers is unmatched.
45 – Bill Duffy, Founder, BDA Sports: Duffy is one of the more recognized names in the NBA agent business, sometimes for the wrong reasons. Duffy’s client list includes Steve Nash, Baron Davis and Greg Oden and with more than $296 million in guaranteed money owed to BDA Sports clients, makes Duffy and BDA Sports one of the real power brokers in the NBA. Duffy is a relentless recruiter and tends to have a marquee player in virtually every draft class.
44 – Mark Bartelstein, CEO and Founder, Priority Sports: Bartelstein owns the middle class of the NBA, with more than 70 NBA players under management and a guaranteed contract base of more than $176 million, Bartelstein and Priority Sports is known for its aggressive business approach and connections around the league. There is not a lot of star power at Priority Sports – Danny Granger, David Lee and Nick Young are thier bigger names.
43 – HoopsHype: Jorge Sierra and Raúl Barrigón power one of the most-trafficked NBA websites on the internet. Their daily rumors page is a must-read for NBA executives and power brokers, wielding a tremendous amount of influence on how the NBA is perceived by fans and executives. Commonly referred to as “The Bible of the NBA,” if HoopsHype prints it, it will be circulated. HoopsHype can make the smallest of news story a major league-wide event. Not bad for two guys in Spain.
42 – Timothy J. Leiweke, CEO, AEG: AEG is the dominant force in sports arenas. With more than 35 major event arenas under management, AEG will be the driving force behind expansion into Europe and China for the NBA. AEG controls The Staples Center in L.A. and dozens of other NBA venues, as well as the 02 Arena in London and the 02 World in Germany.
41 – Tim Chen, CEO, NBA China: The NBA is still developing their China strategy, but having a business presence near some of the largest consumers of basketball products only makes sense. Chen is responsible for most of the business done in China and is a key component in developing an NBA-sponsored league in China. The NBA has taken a very slow and deliberate approach in China looking for the best way to complement the existing Chinese Basketball Association.
40 – Derrick Rose, Player, Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose will enter the NBA season with a new distinction as one of the top four pitchmen in the league. Rose’s everyday persona, demeanor and life-like size have made him an instant hit in the shoe world and his success as a rookie on the court is fueling an up swell that could turn Rose into one of the more marketed NBA players this season. adidas is responding with a lot of support behind Rose and in Chicago’s urban-centric market Rose has been a hit. If he can help power the Bulls into serious playoff consideration his stock and influence could be on the rise.
39 – George and Panayiotis Angelopoulos, Owners, Olympiacos Piraeus: The Greek brothers that own Olympiacos are among the wealthiest men in the world with a combined net worth over $3 billion. The shipping and steel magnates made the NBA pause last summer when they showered $30 million on Atlanta Hawks free agent Josh Childress and were able to steal away Linas Kleiza from the Denver Nuggets and Von Wafer from the Houston Rockets this summer. The brothers have established themselves as a real threat to NBA free agency and that does not seem to be going away anytime soon.
38 – Leon Rose and Henry Thomas, Creative Artists Agency: The news that Henry Thomas has merged his business with Leon Rose and CAA makes CAA one of the bigger agency in the business. Combined CAA now has more than $208 million in guaranteed contract dollars and has a client list that includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh the jewels of the 2010 free agent class, making CAA the lynchpin for next summer’s spending.
37 – Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, TV Analysts, ESPN/ABC: As the primary voices during NBA broadcasts on both ESPN and ABC, Van Gundy and Jackson have become huge influencers on how the game is perceived by fans. ESPN has given their broadcasters a huge amount of freedom and Van Gundy has turned that into must-see TV. Whether it’s social commentary, officiating or player evaluation Van Gundy and Jackson have made televised NBA games interesting again and the rating for their broadcasts show fans are tuning in.
36 – The Pump Brothers – David and Dana Pump: The Pump Brothers own grassroots basketball. Their influence on the rising stars of the game is almost unmatched. Their scouting services and camps are the must-attend events for rising basketball players and they are the guys to know in amateur athletics. They are also the guys to know if you’re looking for a coaching job in collegebasketball. Everyone in college basketball seems to owe them a favor and they are among the most influential people in the college game.
35 – Sam Presti, General Manager, Oklahoma City Thunder – Presti has become the model for the next generation of basketball executive. There is not anyone in the industry who does not want to do business with Presti; he is honest and he takes extreme care of his players and staff. Presti has an eye for talent that is almost unmatched. If he can turn Oklahoma City into a perennial playoff contender, he may be able to write his own ticket for the next 15 years.
34 – Dan Fegan, BEST – Fegan has more than $187 million in guaranteed contract money and a reputation for being the toughest negotiator in the business. As an industry player, Dan Fegan is exactly the guy you want in your corner. This summer Fegan was the architect of the four-team deal landing Fegan’s client Shawn Marion in Dallas, Hedo Turkoglu in Toronto without using Toronto’s exceptions, landed Orlando a hefty trade exception, and Memphis a few million in loose change. If there is a trade to be made or a trade to be forced Fegan typically can make it happen.
33 – Jeff Schwartz, President of Excel Sports Management – Schwartz had a solid summer: his client Blake Griffin was the top overall pick, Lamar Odom re-signed with the Lakers, Jason Kidd re-signed with the Mavericks and Emeka Okafor got moved to a playoff team. With more than $210 million in guaranteed contracts, Schwartz is one of the top agents in the business. Schwartz is positioned to stay among the top with a promising stable of young clients such as Griffin, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, Tyler Hansbrough and Jerryd Bayless.
32 – Daryl Morey, General Manager, Houston Rockets – Morey is the poster child for the new generation of executives. He has a BS in computer science from Northwestern University, an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and taught a class for MIT titled “Analytical Sports Management.” Morey has turned a passion for stats and analytics into a successful NBA career, and has a reputation for scouting talent and finding hidden gems that’s virtually unmatched. His Sports Analytics Conference at MIT has become the must-attend event each March. Morey’s success with Houston has changed how owners view executives and has opened the door for “non-traditional” hires.
31 – Roy Williams, Coach, University of North Carolina – Williams is an icon in college basketball, but his success at UNC is only part of his influence. He is one of the top recruiters in college basketball and has a knack for producing NBA talent. Williams could have his pick of NBA jobs if he ever chooses to leave UNC.
30 – Pat Riley, President, Miami HEAT – Riley is still an icon of the game – his style and tactics are legendary. Riley’s system in Miami is a model of consistency and his coaching staff is among the best in the business in terms of game preparation and player development. His legacy as one of the best coaches in the history of the game is unmatched, but his influence over the sport is still among the top tier.
29 – Phil Jackson, Coach, Los Angeles Lakers – Phil Jackson’s track record speaks for itself, but with 10 championships he has achieved a milestone few others will ever come close to. The “caretaker” of the Triangle Offense, Jackson converted an interesting theory on basketball into a system that has proven to be one of the most complex in the sport, but clearly the most effective. Jackson has proven himself to be a winner among winners and his impact on how coaches are perceived and compensated has set the standard.
28 – Dan Gilbert, Owner, Cleveland Cavaliers – The team that has LeBron James is THE power broker. The Cavs are among the league leaders in national TV appearances, they have a strong national fan base and are among the leaders in team apparel sales. Gilbert has also been one of the more aggressive owners in capitalizing on his team’s on-court success with aggressive ticket and advertising sales initiatives. Gilbert is also a member of the NBA Labor Negotiation Committee and will be intimately involved in shaping the next labor agreement between the owners and players.
27 – Wyc Grousbeck, Owner, Boston Celtics – Grousbeck is one of new generation NBA owners and with his partners have returned the Celtics to elite status in the NBA. His team looks poised to be an elite squad in the Eastern Conference again this year. Grousbeck is also actively involved in the NBA’s business as chairman of the Long-Term Planning committee which oversees all of the NBA’s new business decisions. Grousbeck will also be an instrumental player in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement
26 – R.C. Buford, General Manager, San Antonio Spurs – Buford and his San Antonio Spurs have become the model NBA franchise, both on the court and operationally. Working for Buford seems to be the key stepping stone to NBA executive positions and Buford’s ability to continually find diamonds in the rough from the talent pool has allowed the Spurs to stay among the NBA elite despite their market size. The Spurs continue to produce top flight executives and Buford seems to have an eye for talent on and off the court.
25 – William Wesley – Wesley, who is affectionately called “World Wide Wes,” is the underground power broker. He is credited for steering LeBron James to Leon Rose and for influencing not only where top flight prospects attend college, but also where they ultimately sign at the next level. Wesley is said to have a mountain of resources and is the deal maker at the grassroots level. “World Wide Wes” is the guy who makes things happen.
24 – Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith & Charles Barkley, Inside the NBA, TNT – TNT’s studio crew is immensely popular with the fan base, and their on-set antics are “Must-See TV.” The influence those three wield on the perception of players and teams is very real. Armed with tremendous ratings, they have almost unlimited license from David Levy President, Turner Sports on what they can say and do, and Charles Barkley has brought pushing the envelope to a new level.
23 – Dwight Howard, Player, Orlando Magic – Three million All-Star votes, the Defensive Player of the Year award, and a trip to the NBA Finals has catapulted Howard into prime time. Ranked as one of the top four product endorsers in the NBA, Howard has become the pitch man for adidas, McDonald’s, vitaminwater, Warner Bros., T-Mobile and dozens of others. Howard will appear in at least two major motion pictures this year and is an early favorite for MVP consideration. Armed with amazing charisma, tremendous basketball ability and a million-dollar smile, Howard is growing into an elite NBA player and worldwide icon.
22- Jordi Bertomeu, CEO, Euroleague – Euroleague is the second-most competitive league in basketball, and international powerhouses such as FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Panathinaikos are as big a brands internationally as some NBA teams are domestically. Euroleague has seen a considerable amount of growth over the past ten years and Bertomeu holds the keys Europe. If the NBA has any hopes of expansion into Europe, Euroleague will have to be a partner at some level. The NBA spends a considerable amount of time and money working with Euroleague, and as most pre-season schedules illustrate, the Euroleague and Bertomeu are becoming increasingly intertwined with the NBA.
21 – The 2010 Free Agent Class – Collectively the Free agent class of 2010 is more than just LeBron, Dwyane and Bosh. With more than 131 players likely hitting the free agent market roughly 36% of the active players will be free to change teams. 2010 could become the biggest shift in power the league has seen in years, and with at least 14 teams having substantial cap space, July of 2010 could be one of the busiest summers in NBA history.
20 – Mike Krzyzewski, Coach, Duke University – There is little doubt Coach K personifies coaching. Coach K could add even more to his legacy as a coach after agreeing to stay on as head basketball coach for Team USA’s Mens National Team. His influence over the NBA was evident last season when NBA stars such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard returned from China pushing the “team-first” concepts that powered Team USA to gold. The bond these players have with Coach K transcends the game and his influence on who the next wave of “Dream Teamers” will be will only continue to grow. When Coach K speaks a lot of the NBA elite stop and listen, giving him one of the most powerful voices in the game.
19 – Michael Jordan, Managing Member of Basketball Operations Charlotte Bobcats – It has been seven seasons since Michael played his last NBA game yet he remains one of the most visible athletes in the world. His earning power is still unmatched, even in retirement, giving him tremendous influence. Jordan is still the face of Hanes, Gatorade and Nike and oversees his own Nike signature apparel line with hand-picked endorsers. Endorsing Brand Jordan is a pinnacle achievement for a very few NBA players and that exclusive club now includes Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul. Jordan’s influence over a generation of basketball players is evident worldwide, and while he is far removed from championships and MVP awards, he still commands an audience wherever he goes; he is still the boyhood idol for more than half the NBA. Jordan will enter the Basketball Hall of Fame this year, adding one more notch to his impressive career.
18 – Sonny Vaccaro – Vaccaro is the “Sneaker King,” responsible for the modern shoe endorsement model. Vaccaro landed Jordan for Nike, built adidas and Reebok into basketball powerhouses and single handedly changed the landscape for high school players. Vaccaro’s latest endeavor is placing direct from high school players with European teams having successfully gotten Brandon Jennings from high school to Europe to the NBA. His latest prodigy is Jeremy Tyler, the junior turned-pro that will play in Israel next season could be the ultimate test for Vaccaro’s legacy. Vaccaro has been a trail blazing maverick his entire career and most of the basketball world owes him a favor giving him tremendous influence on the game.
17 – Rob Pelinka, Founder, Landmark Sports – The agent for Kobe Bryant has very few worries and a tremendous amount of clout. With a client list that includes Bryant, Carlos Boozer, Gerald Wallace and Eric Gordon, Pelinka has more than $263 million in guaranteed contract dollars. Bryant is by far one of the most influential and coveted players in the marketing world and Pelinka hold the keys to a meeting. Pelinka also has a promising stable of young players such as Gordon and #3 overall pick James Harden. With Bryant set to ink a monster contract extension with the Lakers, Pelinka and Landmark Sports have a huge amount of influence on one of the biggest names in the game.
16 – Jerry Colangelo, Chairman, USA Basketball – Colangelo’s legacy in the NBA was set long before he decided to take over USA Basketball, but now he has become the person every player hopes to get a phone call from. Transforming USA basketball over the last four years has earned Colangelo a number of new friends, and the manner in which he treats players has the NBA’s elite at his beckon call. Colangelo has gotten the biggest names in the NBA into Las Vegas every summer for camps and training sessions and gotten those same big names to commit to a long-term strategy few thought was possible. With a hefty budget funded in part by the NBA, Colangelo has unmatched autonomy and a tremendous amount of influence.
15 – Kobe Bryant, Player, Los Angeles Lakers – Armed with four championship rings and a fiercely loyal and faithful fan base, Bryant is without question among the top names in the NBA. Bryant has a tremendous amount of influence on the NBA and its marketing partners while also having a lucrative shoe deal with Nike. Bryant literally can write his own check, and at 31 he has several years of supremacy remaining. The Lakers will likely extend his contract this summer, the only contract with a specific no-trade clause, insuring he remains with the Lakers for as long as he wants to be there.
14 – Arn Tellum, Principal, Management – Wasserman Media – Tellum and Wasserman Media are the top earners in the NBA, with more than $300 million in guaranteed contract dollars. Tellum and his partners have a client roster unmatched by any other agency. Tellum’s client list includes Derrick Rose, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge , Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook, D.J. Augustin and Brook Lopez, giving him a strong mix of big dollar players now as well as a bright stable of talent for the future. Tellum’s partner Warren LeGarie also represents half of the coaches and executives in the league, giving Wasserman unbelievable influence on the game.
13 – Bob Elphinston, President, FIBA – As the president of the organizing body for all of international basketball, Bob Elphinson has a tremendous amount of influence over the basketball world. FIBA has 214 national federations and is comprised of five commissions: Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, making Elphinston’s FIBA the most powerful organization in basketball. Any hopes of NBA expansion into Europe will need FIBA’s blessing, and as NBA fans see every year, a large chunk of the NBA spends its summer in FIBA competitions around the world.
12 – ESPN.com – As one of the top sports-specific sites on the internet, ESPN.com draws in more than 22 million visitors per month, giving them the largest reach of any news outlet covering the NBA game. Marc Stein, Chris Broussard, J.A. Adande and Chris Sheridan are the most influential writers in the business and their wealth of data and access to news is unmatched, while Henry Abbott has brought sports blogging into primetime. ESPN.com can get virtually any interview and breaks more than 85% of all the major stories in the league, making them the undisputed leader. Yahoo! and AOL are gearing up to go after ESPN this year, but until they are dethroned ESPN.com is the most influential news outlet covering the game.
11 – Ed Stack, CEO, Dick’s Sporting Goods – With 384 stores in thirty-nine states, Dick’s is one of the largest sports retailers in the United States, with a heavy influence on the East Coast. Stack and Dick’s determine what products are stocked and available and they represent a huge chunk of the basketball marketplace. Control over the merchandising dollars gives Stack a tremendous influence over who lands major endorsement deals and what products are front and center to the sports buying public.
10 – Lawrence Norman, Vice President, adidas Global Basketball – Norman is responsible for all of adidas’ basketball business, from marketing and endorsement deals to product and manufacturing to the partnership with the NBA. Norman is the king maker for adidas, as he is personally involved in which athletes the brand puts its weight behind and more importantly how the NBA is seen on the court. adidas drives the NBA’s on-court apparel innovations and Norman and adidas have a tremendous amount of influence on that part of the NBA.
9 – George Raveling, Global Director Basketball Sports Marketing, Nike – Raveling is a coaching legend, but in his role as Global Director for Nike he oversees all of Nike’s endorsement and marketing efforts. Nike is the dominant brand in basketball and Raveling determines who they sign and how they are promoted. With Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in their stable Nike is the most recognized brand name in basketball and has a tremendous influence over the style and culture of the basketball world.
8 – Sal LaRocca, NBA Global Merchandising Group – LaRocca overseas the NBA’s life blood – the merchandising group. LaRocca is responsible for all aspects of the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League merchandising business on a global basis, including product development, merchandising, licensing, sales development, marketing, retail and direct-to-consumer initiatives. The NBA Store on 5th Avenue, NBAStore.com and the league’s publishing and home video business units all fall under LaRocca. The NBA’s Merchandising Group grosses in excess of $2.8 billion annually and LaRocca and his team oversee what is considered the best retail and merchandising business in sports.
7 – Mark Cuban, Owner, Dallas Mavericks – Beyond his influence as the most vocal and visible owner in the league, Cuban has changed how fans perceive sports owners across all sports. On the surface Cuban comes off as a self-promoter, but few recognize that he has transformed the Dallas Mavericks into a world class sports team, more than doubling the value of the team in the process. Mark has forced multiple issues at the league level and has brought the NBA kicking and screaming into the digital era. Mark is often the voice of criticism for the league, but behind closed doors Mark’s voice is valued more than he’d ever admit and he has far more influence than people give him credit for.
6 – Keith Daly, CEO, Foot Locker – Foot Locker is the top sports retailer in the world, with more than 3,600 retail locations in more than 20 countries worldwide. As the chief retailer for all things basketball, Foot Locker has a tremendous amount of influence on the game. Foot Locker plays a huge role in what products are stocked and available to fans, and with a marketing budget unmatched in the space, Foot Locker also determines which players fans see in advertising and what products are prominently featured. Foot Locker had more than $5.2 billion in sales last year and represents a huge segment of all sports retails sales, giving them a tremendous amount of influence not only on the NBA but the shoe and apparel business in general.
5 – Myles Brand, President, NCAA – As President of the NCAA, Brand oversees the athletic programs of 1,281 institutions, conferences and organizations that comprise the three divisions of college sports. Brand has tremendous influence in most major rule decisions as they affect eligibility of players and rules governing players in college basketball. Under Brand’s watch the NCAA’s post season basketball tournament has become the marquee event in college sports. In 1999 the NCAA inked an 11-year, $6 billion TV deal with CBS Sports, a deal which will expire in two-years. In January, Brand was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is expected to be replaced at some point this year. Until that time, he will continue to be one of the most influential names in basketball.
4 – Adam Silver, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer, NBA – Silver is the day-to-day business leader of the NBA. He oversees NBA Entertainment, which comprises all the NBA’s business units, including television and merchandising and the NBA’s international business ventures. The Global Media Properties and Marketing Partnerships division of the league also fall under Silver, as well as advertising sales. Silver is believed to be the eventual replacement for David Stern when he decides to retire. Silver has been with the NBA for 14 years and has been heavily involved in the broadcasting side of the business, making him one of the most influential people in the sport.
3 – LeBron James, Player, Cleveland Cavaliers – James is the top name in basketball marketing, giving him and his pending free agency tremendous influence. While compiling this list one NBA owner was asked for his list, and came back with one name: LeBron James. LeBron was labeled “The Chosen One” in high school and has lived up to the name at virtually every turn, captivating fans and media alike. It’s believed James has already amassed more than $300 million in salary and endorsement dollars at just 24 years of age. As the most coveted free agent in a generation, James will make or break a franchise (or both) in July of 2010.
2 – George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN – As the dominant sports brand in media ESPN controls the message. Bodenheimer, in turn, controls ESPN, so you do the math. ESPN is the ultimate kingmaker, their experts are experts by virtue of being with ESPN, and they own the broadcasting rights to so much of the sports landscape they can control and influence what is seen and heard across a variety of mediums. ESPN’s influence on who is popular, who is not and what teams and situations are news shapes every aspect of the game. To many if ESPN reports it, it is real. ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter, is one of the most-watched sports broadcasts anywhere. Between their news-making ability and broadcasting agreements no entity has more influence on the game than Bodenheimer’s ESPN.
1 – David Stern, Commissioner, NBA – David Stern is basketball. David Stern is the NBA. With almost unlimited influence and authority, Stern has shaped what was a fledgling sports league in 1984 into what is today the third-most popular sports league in the United States generating more than $3.1 billion a year in annual revenue. Stern is the architect of the salary cap era in sports and has presided over the NBA’s rise to prime time. The NBA now has 11 offices in cities outside the United States and its games are televised in countries around the world in 42 languages. Stern personally oversaw the development of the Women’s National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Development League. Stern has even successfully instituted an age limit in the NBA. With all of these accomplishments under his belt, Stern is commonly viewed as the most powerful commissioner in sports.