After the recent announcement of the NBA Development League becoming the NBA G League, President Malcolm Turner spoke with GLeague.NBA.com about the impact of this partnership and the league’s future.
Q: Entitlement was one of your major goals when you first started. What is it like to watch this come to life, the first entitlement deal for a U.S. pro sports league?
Malcolm Turner: I’m thrilled, excited and just so proud of this opportunity and this new chapter for our league. Gatorade is a founding partner of this league. They were with us from the beginning, and they’re an active NBA partner. To deepen our relationship with a partner like Gatorade – synonymous with our game, and their history of working with the best athletes across all sports – it’s really exciting to do it in this capacity.
On the one hand, yes, it’s a new brand and identity for our league that really marks a new chapter. But the other part about this deal that’s even more compelling is the sports science, the branded content – the things that they’re interested in bringing into our business. From the sports science standpoint, it’s their insight and innovations in areas such as nutrition, hydration, recovery and training. We are able to employ their team from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, and provide our players, teams and trainers with additional resources geared toward maximizing player potential. That’s really exciting. I’m excited about what it means for the league, but even more excited about what it means for our teams and especially our players.
Q: What does this specifically mean for the future of the league’s partnership with Gatorade?
MT: There’s an element of the relationship that will be more in house, in terms of their scientists working with our trainers and players. They will be helping facilitate their development and their performance, specifically as it relates to nutrition, training and recovery. Gatorade has really bought into the fact that we are a league of aspiration, a league of opportunity. So they’re also interested in opportunities of brining players’ journeys to life with their NBA dreams.
I think that’s going to be a fun and interesting way for Gatorade to not only engage with our players, but ultimately with our fans as we try to bring some of those stories to life this upcoming season and beyond. Back in house, we will activate Gatorade Sports Science Institute with our trainers to provide the players with additional resources and tools.
Q: How do you think the new two-way contracts will change the way teams operate, including the NBA Draft?
MT: It will be an exciting, interesting offseason storyline to watch. The reality is that teams will probably have different approaches. But overall, it’s an important asset in terms of development for us as a league that we’re providing to NBA teams. NBA coaches and GMs have clearly recognized the NBA G League as an effective and efficient way to develop talent. With the addition of the two-way contracts, it allows us to add more talent to the league even faster. Ultimately, that’s a benefit for the NBA teams and our fans with the product on the floor.
Q: One of the goals is for every NBA team to eventually have a G League affiliate. Looking forward, what are the next major focuses for the G League?
MT: Launching this deepening relationship with Gatorade in successful fashion is a high priority. We just announced our league’s 27th team, so we are clearly within striking distance of 30. We have to execute. We have to get across the finish line there, and we will. We have three remaining NBA teams that we’re working with to do so. Beyond that, we’re always looking for other opportunities that could help us grow as a league, whether it be international opportunities or National Team opportunities with USA Basketball. Given the talent level we’re seeing in the G League, and the changing competition calendar with FIBA, I think there will be opportunities for us to work with USA Basketball and create National Team opportunities.
Yes, we’re launching a new brand, a new identity. We have important partners already with ESPN and Nike. But we want to continue growing successful businesses across our footprint. We’ve made great progress along those lines. We’ve been focused on providing the right resources from a league office standpoint, but also introducing the right set of partners who can really help make our business go. Ultimately we want to have 30 teams, but we also want to build a footprint that’s sustainable for the long term.
Q: What does the timeline look like for reaching 30 teams?
MT: We’re adding four new teams for the 2017-18 season, which will bring us to 26. Washington, we’ve already announced for 2018-19. I believe that, at the latest, we will realize our vision of every NBA franchise having a G League team by the 2019-20 season. But it’s possible that could happen even sooner. So 2019-20 is the reasonable timeframe, but we reserve the right to do so sooner. Including the Washington announcement, that’s 10 new teams announced in the past 30 months. That’s a lot of new teams in a very short period of time. I think it speaks to the focus we have of launching successful businesses.
Q: When we do eventually reach 30 teams, what else do you think will look different about the G League compared to what we’ve seen the last few years?
MT: It’s the fastest path to the NBA, the second-best league in the world. There’s a record number of players being assigned to this league. Rookie development is taking place at unprecedented levels with the advent of two-way contracts. My belief is that one of the defining hallmarks of the new CBA is the accelerating impact it will have on our league. We’re already a league that’s been growing at a nice clip, but having said that, I think it will serve as an accelerate in terms of both basketball development and business development. I think it’s going to open up a whole new range of opportunities for us.
I think we’re going to see an even further accelerating trend, in terms of NBA player assignments or rookie development. It was fitting that we announced our league’s new identity during NBA Draft week. When you look at the 2016 Draft, 17 first-round picks played in the G League this past season. And of the 24 second-round picks who signed into the league, 22 played in the G League. So we’ve always been an under-the-radar participant in NBA Draft week, but we’ve been a big part of the storyline.
Q: One of the things fans enjoy most is seeing someone go through the G League, make his way to the NBA, and have an impact at the highest level. What have been some of your own favorite stories to watch play out?
MT: I’ve said this from the beginning. Part of our mission, if you want to work at the highest level, is to help NBA dreams come true. Whether you’re a player, coach, referee, trainer or anything down the line, it’s always very fulfilling to see people realize that NBA dream and to know that we played a role in it. Yogi Ferrell was such a fun story to watch this past season. It’s Ferrell, Seth Curry, or even guys like Danny Green and Hassan Whiteside, or on the referee side with CJ Washington.
And the coaches we now have, with 12 of them being promoted to the NBA level this past offseason. I think that’s what I find most fulfilling, the launch pad we provide for players, coaches, officials, trainers, front office personnel and sales staff. We have a growing NBA G League alumni network at the NBA level, which is really exciting. I’m grateful for any small role that we play in furthering their development.