How to Become an NBA General Manager (or President)

The pathway to becoming a General Manager (GM) or President in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is not always linear, but it involves years of dedication, education, hard work, and networking.

This article outlines the steps and skills required to embark on this unique career path.

Start with Education

A strong educational background is a key stepping stone to any executive role, including a GM or President in the NBA.

Most GMs have a bachelor’s degree at the very least, often in fields like sports management, business, or a related discipline.

Advanced degrees, such as a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or a law degree, are also common and may provide a competitive edge.

Gain Relevant Experience

Experience in the field of basketball is crucial.

Many GMs and Presidents start their careers in lower-level positions within the sport.

Some begin as players or coaches, while others work in administrative roles, scouting, or player development.

The goal is to learn the ins and outs of the sport, including player development, game strategy, and contract negotiation.

Understand the Business of Sports

The NBA is a business, and understanding how to successfully operate within this landscape is key to ascending the ranks.

This includes mastering salary cap management, player contract negotiation, public relations, and marketing.

Developing a firm understanding of these areas helps in making sound business decisions that contribute to a team’s success.

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Develop a Network

Like any industry, networking is an essential part of becoming an NBA GM or President.

Building relationships with players, coaches, agents, and other executives within the industry can open doors and provide opportunities that might not be available otherwise.

Showcase Leadership Skills

In the role of a GM or President, leadership skills are a must. You will be expected to lead a team of professionals, make tough decisions under pressure, and build a winning culture within your organization.

Leverage Analytics

Modern sports management heavily relies on data analytics.

Developing an understanding of how to interpret and use statistical data can inform player scouting, game strategy, and long-term planning.

Familiarity with analytics platforms and statistical analysis is a significant advantage.

Gain Recognition

Working in the NBA is highly competitive.

To get noticed, you need to make significant contributions to your team or organization.

This could mean identifying and recruiting star players, being the brains behind a successful trade, or implementing a game-changing strategy.

Seize Opportunities

Finally, becoming an NBA GM or President often comes down to seizing opportunities when they present themselves.

This might mean applying for a job that seems out of reach, relocating to a new city, or taking on a challenging project that has the potential to demonstrate your capabilities.

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FAQs – How to Become an NBA General Manager or President

1. What are the responsibilities of an NBA General Manager (GM) or President?

The NBA General Manager or President holds one of the highest-ranking positions within a team.

They oversee all basketball operations and make critical decisions related to team management.

This includes drafting players, trading, negotiating contracts, scouting talent, and coordinating with the coaching staff. It’s their responsibility to ensure that the team remains competitive and financially sustainable.

2. What qualifications do I need to become an NBA General Manager or President?

There isn’t a fixed path to becoming an NBA GM or President, but there are several common qualifications:

  1. Education: Many GMs and Presidents hold at least a bachelor’s degree, often in sports management, business, or a related field. Some even hold advanced degrees, such as a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).
  2. Experience: Most GMs and Presidents have extensive experience in basketball, often starting with roles such as a scout, coach, or even a player. A deep understanding of the sport, its rules, and strategies is essential.
  3. Skills: Excellent communication, leadership, decision-making, and negotiation skills are critical. A keen understanding of business, finance, and analytics can also be helpful.

3. Do I need to have played basketball professionally to become an NBA General Manager or President?

While having professional basketball experience can be beneficial, it’s not a requirement.

Several GMs and Presidents have never played professional basketball.

Instead, they have worked their way up through other roles within sports management, such as scouting or analytics.

4. How can I gain experience in basketball operations?

Starting at entry-level positions in sports management can provide the experience necessary to climb the ladder.

Positions such as a sports analyst, scout, or even coaching at lower levels can offer valuable insights.

Internships with sports organizations, working in college athletics, or roles in sports agencies can also be excellent starting points.

5. How much do NBA General Managers or Presidents earn?

Salaries can vary significantly depending on the team’s success and the GM or President’s track record.

However, it’s safe to say that these are highly paid positions, often exceeding seven figures in salary.

Also, bonuses and other incentives can significantly increase earnings, especially for successful franchises.

6. What networking opportunities are there for aspiring NBA General Managers or Presidents?

Networking is critical in the sports industry.

Attending industry conferences, such as the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, can offer opportunities to connect with industry professionals.

Joining professional organizations, like the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM), also provides networking opportunities and resources for professional development.

7. What role does analytics play in the job of an NBA General Manager or President?

Analytics play an increasingly important role in basketball operations.

GMs and Presidents use data analytics to evaluate player performance, scout potential talent, and make strategic decisions.

Knowledge of analytics software and the ability to interpret complex datasets is increasingly becoming a crucial skill for these roles.

8. How can I keep up-to-date with changes in the industry?

Staying current with the latest trends, rule changes, and advances in sports analytics is essential.

Following trusted sources of NBA news, attending sports management seminars and conferences, and joining professional sports management associations can all aid in keeping you informed.

9. What is the role of a General Manager or President during the NBA Draft?

The NBA Draft is one of the most important events of the year for a GM or President.

They are responsible for scouting potential players, deciding on draft picks, and negotiating rookie contracts. Their decisions during the draft can significantly impact the team’s future performance.

10. Can I become an NBA General Manager or President without a formal degree?

While it’s possible, it’s challenging to become a GM or President without a formal degree.

The skills and knowledge gained from a degree in sports management, business, or a related field can be highly beneficial.

Plus, many teams prefer candidates with formal education in these areas.

However, significant industry experience and a proven track record can sometimes compensate for a lack of formal education.


Becoming a GM or President in the NBA requires a unique blend of education, experience, business acumen, networking skills, and the ability to leverage analytics effectively.

This journey may be long and challenging, but for those who are passionate about the sport and committed to achieving their professional goals, the rewards can be immense.


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