We are excited to announce that Rick Welts, NBA Hall of Famer & Former President of the Golden State Warriors, has joined the BCA 2023 Speaker Series! Rick will be our special guest speaker on April 28th.
Rick Welts At A Glance
- Rick Welts is one of the most respected executives in sports and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
- His career spanned nearly 50 years in executive roles with the NBA League office and three NBA teams, including serving as President & Chief Operating Officer of the Golden State Warriors.
- Welts enjoyed a successful 17-year stint at the NBA League Office in New York, becoming the league’s third-in-command as the executive vice president, chief marketing officer, and president of NBA Properties.
- In addition to his overall contributions to building the NBA brand, image, and popularity, his notable accomplishments at the NBA include the creation of NBA All-Star Weekend and the marketing program for USA Basketball for the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” in Barcelona.
- Together with WNBA President Val Ackerman, Welts was named “Marketer of the Year” by Brandweek for his role in creating and launching the WNBA.
Rick Welts is one of the most respected executives in sports and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. His career spanned nearly 50 years in executive roles with three NBA teams and the NBA League office in New York City. Welts stepped away from his position as President & Chief Operating Officer of the Golden State Warriors in June 2021 after 10 seasons with the club, during which time the team reached the NBA Finals in five consecutive years and won three NBA championships. Additionally, Welts oversaw the development and opening of one of the world’s top arenas, Chase Center. The project—a privately financed sports and entertainment venue and district in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood—required Welts to navigate an incredibly complex and challenging political environment. Stanford’s Graduate School of Business published, “Rick Welts: NBA League and Club Leadership Roles Provide Platform for Broader Societal Change,” a case study on Welts’ career, from his days as a ball boy for the Seattle Supersonics, through college, and the NBA. It includes transcripts of interviews with individuals who shed light on Welts’ career, leadership style, and impact. Drawing on his years of experience as a business executive, Welts speaks shares the lessons he has learned in brand-building, being a leader in the face of adversity, and developing a truly diverse and inclusive organizational culture.
In recognition of the organization’s business success, Sports Business Journal named the Warriors the “Sports Team of the Year” twice—the only team to win the coveted award on multiple occasions—and Sports Business Journal named the Warriors “Franchise of the Decade,” an award that recognizes one organization among all U.S. professional sports teams. The decade timeframe paralleled Welts’ stint with the organization.
Welts owns an all-encompassing resume that includes a myriad of different roles spanning virtually every level of professional sports team management. Prior to joining the Warriors, he spent nine years as President of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, supervising all business operations for the Suns, the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA), and the team’s arena. During his tenure in Phoenix, the Suns introduced an offense that featured 3-point shooting and the fast-paced game that was the forerunner of NBA offenses today, created by Coach Mike D’Antoni, two-time Most Valuable Player Steve Nash, and General Manager Steve Kerr. The Phoenix Mercury won WNBA championships in 2007 and 2009.
Prior to joining the Suns, Welts enjoyed a successful 17-year stint at the NBA League Office in New York, where he ascended through the ranks to eventually become the league’s third-in-command as the executive vice president, chief marketing officer, and president of NBA Properties. In addition to his overall contributions to building the NBA brand, image, and popularity, his notable accomplishments at the NBA include the creation of NBA All-Star Weekend in 1984 and the marketing program for USA Basketball for the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” in Barcelona. Together with WNBA President Val Ackerman, Welts was named “Marketer of the Year” by Brandweek for his role in creating and launching the WNBA. During his time at the NBA office, he supervised a wide range of departments including corporate sponsorship, media sales, consumer products, international business activities, media relations, community relations, team services, special events, and creative services. Welts also played a prominent role in the organization of preseason games in international cities and the opening of international NBA offices in Australia, Asia, Europe, Mexico, and Canada.
Welts was hired at the NBA in 1982 by David Stern, two years before Stern was named NBA Commissioner—a role in which he served for 30 years. When Stern passed away in 2020, Welts was one of the speakers at the memorial service at Radio City Music Hall honoring his mentor and boss.
A native of Seattle, Washington, Welts began his NBA career in 1969, at the age of 16, as a ball boy with the Seattle SuperSonics. He spent 10 years with his hometown team, serving in several roles, including as the team’s director of public relations during back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals and the Supersonics’ lone NBA Championship. He was the recipient of the annual Splaver/McHugh “Tribute to Excellence Award,” which is given annually by the NBA Public Relations Directors’ Association to a current or former member of the NBA PR family who has demonstrated an outstanding level of performance and service during their career. He owns the unique distinction of being part of seven (7) championship teams in the NBA (4), WNBA (2), and NBA G League (1).
After his tenure with the SuperSonics, the University of Washington product spent the following three years at Bob Walsh & Associates, a sports marketing firm in Seattle. His non-NBA resume also includes serving as president of Fox Sports Enterprises during Fox’s ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In a front-page story in the New York Times, Welts became the highest-ranking executive in men’s professional team sports to publicly acknowledge he is gay. He was presented with the United States Tennis Association’s ICON Award at the US Open in New York City, an award that recognizes and celebrates those who have had a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in the sports industry and society. He was also honored with GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) Respect Award, which honors those who have made a difference in the areas of diversity and inclusion. Welts was honored by GLAAD, the nation’s LGBTQ media advocacy organization, with the Davidson/Valenti Award, which is presented to an LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality. He also served as the celebrity Grand Marshall of San Francisco’s Pride Parade. He was honored by the Anti-Defamation League with its “Torch of Liberty Award.”
A member of the Delta Chi fraternity while attending the University of Washington, he was named “Delta Chi of the Year” by the national organization. Welts delivered the commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Washington, in front of 40,000 people (about twice the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium in Seattle. Welts is currently a member of the Board of Directors of two public companies – GoPro (NASDAQ GPRO) and Oportun Financial Corporation (NASDAQ OPRT). He serves as a board member of the Bay Area Council and the Warriors Community Foundation. He also advises individuals and organizations on sports-related projects.
He and his husband, Todd Gage, were married in 2020 by San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a ceremony in her office at City Hall.