Today on Legends Of Sport, Andy welcomes Hall of Fame basketball executive and behind-the-scenes playmaker, Rick Welts. The two first met in 1984 at the NBA All-Star Game in Denver and as Andy says, “the rest is history.” They discuss Rick’s legendary career that spanned five decades and included stints at the NBA league office and three NBA teams – the Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors. In 2018, both Rick and Andy were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for their contributions to the game. Hear Rick reminisce about his unlikely friendship with Bill Russell, working with former Commissioner David Stern, his coming out moment in 2011 and why that was the right time, the evolution of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend and Dunk Contest, Spencer Haywood, how “retirement” is treating him and so much more from his 46 seasons in the NBA!
Other topics discussed in this episode:
3:37 From Seattle SuperSonics front office to being recruited by David Stern to join the NBA league office
“I was the 35th employee at the NBA, counting the mailroom. That was everybody who worked there. Stern’s mission was to start to build the business right…[The NBA had] scheduled games and signed referees and that was about it. It was a time I wouldn’t trade for anything…Stern was collecting a bunch of young people who loved the NBA. I fit all his criteria…I was young, I loved the NBA but maybe most importantly, I was very inexpensive.”
5:27 How Rick convinced Commissioner Stern to expand All-Star from a single game to a weekend-long event
9:43 The first NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest and its evolution over time
13:27 Rick reflects on his 2018 Hall of Fame induction
15:35 Rick remembers the SuperSonics signing Spencer Haywood and the Supreme Court case which followed
21:52 An early morning encounter with Bill Russell that grew into a lifelong friendship
24:34 Rick shares his experience coming out as gay in 2011 in an interview with the New York Times, becoming the first out American professional sports executive
30:20 Rick reflects on working with his mentor David Stern, including some of their failed ideas (NBA football league, anyone?)
35:35 Rick shares what’s next for him and his bucket list dream
“If I could be useful in any way, getting an NBA team back to Seattle that for me would bookend the career. I don’t want to run it, I just want to help get one back there…Opening night, the next opening night for the Seattle SuperSonics would be a pretty great way to put an exclamation point in my career.”
Tune in to this week’s Legends Of Sport to hear a close-up account of basketball history from one of basketball’s history-makers!