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How One Executive Changed the NBA

  • Rick Welts, one of the most influential NBA executives in history, is retiring at the end of the season.
  • Welts helped create the WNBA, NBA All-Star Weekend, and the 1992 Dream Team.
Golden State Warriors/Design: Alex Brooks

What connects the WNBA, NBA All-Star Weekend, the historic 1992 Olympic Dream Team, and the Golden State Warriors recent three-championship run?

Rick Welts, an executive with a nearly unrivaled impact, who announced on Friday that he would retire at the end of the season. 

Warriors President since 2011, Welts previously worked for the Seattle Supersonics (winning a championship in 1979), Phoenix Suns, and the NBA league office.

His impact on the NBA and its global brand is nearly unrivaled.

  • Welts spearheaded the transformation of the All-Star Game into a weekend featuring the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest.
  • He pushed the NBA to allow its best players into the Olympics, elevating the sport’s global presence with the storied 1992 Dream Team.
  • Welts worked with Val Ackerman to launch the WNBA in 1997.

“Simply put, Rick Welts played a transformational role in creating the modern NBA during his more than 40 years as a pioneering league and team executive,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Welts, who was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2018, also became the first openly gay NBA executive in 2011.

The 68-year-old told The Undefeated that he plans to travel in Europe, once that is possible, and settle into a more relaxing lifestyle. “This is my 46th NBA season,” he said. “To be good at this, you have to work hard always. I’m ready not to do that.”