Being the National Basketball Association commissioner is an incredibly challenging and demanding job that requires a unique blend of skills, expertise, and a deep understanding of the complexities of the sports industry. The commissioner’s role extends far beyond just the on-court action and involves making crucial decisions that shape the future of the league and maintain its integrity. That being said, does his monetary compensation make all these worth it? If so, how much does the NBA commissioner make?
What Does the NBA Commissioner Do?
What does the NBA commissioner do? As mentioned, the NBA commissioner has heavy responsibilities that affect the whole league. He is the principal decision-maker, responsible for establishing policies and rules that regulate the league’s operations. This involves supervising player behavior and enforcing league laws, as well as coordinating the draft, trade deadlines, and other league activities.
Here are more of his roles and responsibilities:
- Makes and implements a strategic plan. The commissioner had to oversee a strategic plan for the league and will have to consult owners and executives to establish the league’s long-term direction and objectives.
- Managing player relations. The NBA is nothing without the players; hence, their concerns had to be one of the league’s top priorities. The commissioner manages such problems, including the negotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The goal is to always maintain healthy and positive ties between the league and the players.
- Revenue generation. When money comes in in the form of revenue, it solves half the problems. That’s why making the league more income is one of the most significant responsibilities of the commissioner. This involved looking at possible sponsorships, license agreements, and other revenue streams.
- Marketing campaigns. One role of the commissioner is to make sure the public knows what the NBA is all about in a positive manner. That’s why projecting a good image and reputation is very important. Another aspect of this role is seeking partnerships with international organizations for globalization opportunities.
- Legal Undertakings. The commissioner oversees the league’s legal affairs, which includes legal disputes and relationships with governments and regulatory authorities.
List of Current and Past NBA Commissioners
There have only been five commissioners in the history of the NBA. Each of them has served at least nine years, and a couple has done so for decades. Here is the list of all the commissioners employed by the NBA:
1. Maurice Podoloff (1946 to 1963)
Podoloff served from the league’s founding until 1963. He was the one who created the college draft and instituted the 24-second shot clock in 1954. Podoloff had excellent organizational skills and wasn’t afraid to be firm if needed. It was he who punished Alex Groza and Ralph Beard with lifetime bans upon admitting the point-shaving they did in college.
Podoloff grew the NBA to 19 clubs in his 17 years as president. He also created three divisions and arranged 558 games. The NBA would rename its annual league Most Valuable Player Award as the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in his honor.
2. J. Walter Kennedy (1963 to 1975)
While Podoloff was officially called the “President,” Kennedy was the first to be formally named “commissioner.” Even though he was personable and likable, he was authoritative and handed the heaviest fine during his tenure. He penalized Red Auerback $500 for his misconduct in a preseason game in 1963.
Kennedy came into the league during a tumultuous time. The NBA only had nine teams, but he increased it to 18 teams in the mid-70s. He secured a television contract in his tenure and was the first to uphold a filed protest in 1969 between the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks.
3. Larry O’Brien (1975 to 1984)
O’Brien was appointed commissioner in 1975 after the successful NBA-ABA merger. In many ways, he was the one who resurrected the NBA from the grave, so to speak, securing TV deals here and there while expanding the league to 24 teams. O’Brien was also the one who brought the NBA to cable TV on ESPN and USA TV Network.
Other achievements and milestones of O’Brien’s career were the introduction of the salary cap in 1983, the establishment of the NBA College Scholarship program in 1980, and the implementation of the three-point line in 1979. The NBA championship trophy was named after Larry O’Brien in 1984 to honor his many contributions as league commissioner.
4. David Stern (1984 to 2014)
While O’Brien laid the groundwork, Stern was the one who took the NBA to new heights. Stern’s first year as the commissioner was coincidentally the influx season of new superstars such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and John Stockton, in addition to the already-established Larry Bird and Magic Johnson rivalry.
Stern’s long list of achievements includes the expansion to 30 teams and into Canada, the creation of the WNBA, and rapid globalization. The NBA was televised in 215 countries under David Stern’s watch.
5. Adam Silver (2014 to present)
Silver was Stern’s deputy, so it only made sense for him to become the commissioner after Stern stepped down in 2014. Even though the NBA was already a sports pillar under David Stern, Silver led the league to more tremendous financial growth, as evidenced by the ever-increasing salary cap. He also promoted social awareness and encouraged the players to speak out on these issues.
Other notable happenings under Silver’s leadership were the suspension of the games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, and the change of the official game ball manufacturer from Spalding to Wilson. The current Wilson balls feature Silver’s signature, a first of that nature from any commissioner.
How Much Does the NBA Commissioner Make Per Year?
Now, on to the question, “How much does Adam Silver make?” The latest report was that Silver makes around $10 million annually, making him the third highest-paid commissioner out of the four major sports commissioners in North America. Roger Goodell of the National Football League and Major League Baseball’s Rob Manfred are paid higher.
Adam Silver’s Accomplishments as NBA Commissioner
Two of the most significant accomplishments of Adam Silver as the NBA commissioner are the league’s rapid financial growth and global expansion. Silver is also very open to new technology and blockchain application. He has introduced virtual reality and real-time tracking and is a massive proponent of legalized game betting as part of his revenue growth and fan engagement outlook.
That being said, Silver also had to make extremely difficult decisions during his tenure. One example was the Bubble campus in Florida, which cost $180 million for the league to set up. The aforementioned forced dismissal of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling also happened under Silver’s watch. He also made the decision to move the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans because of North Carolina’s House Bill No. 2. The league opposed the state’s measure because it curtailed anti-discrimination rights for the LGBT community.
Who Pays the NBA Commissioner?
The commissioner is technically an employee of the league and, therefore, is paid by the NBA. The money comes from the league’s revenue, including advertisement and sponsorship deals. Adam Silver reportedly has an estimated net worth of $35 million, which makes sense given his annual salary.
Wrapping Things Up: How Much Does the NBA Commissioner Make?
The NBA commissioner has the Herculean task of overseeing and managing the affairs of the league. These include marketing, branding, revenue growth, global expansion, player relations, and legal matters. It’s a long list of roles and responsibilities that require a unique type of person to fill the shoes.
The first commissioner (then called President) was Maurice Podoloff, followed by J. Walter Kennedy, Larry O’Brien, David Stern, and Adam Silver. Each individual brought something to the table, but they were all capable leaders who led the NBA to different milestones. In fact, the NBA MVP award was named after Podoloff, and the championship trophy was named after O’Brien.
With these things considered, it begs the question: How much does the NBA commissioner make? Adam Silver’s salary is an estimated $10 million a year, which is paid by the league and taken from the revenue earnings. This makes him the third-highest commissioner in the four major North American sports and is undoubtedly a big reason why his net worth is estimated at $35 million.
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