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Adam Silver | Commissioner, NBA

Adam Silver was among the 10 executives whose work in 2018 we believe indicates the direction of the sports business in 2019 and beyond.

While other major professional sports leagues in the United States were continuing to fight for so-called ‘integrity fees’ following the Supreme Court’s sports-betting repeal in May, Adam Silver ensured that the NBA would be ahead of the pack by making MGM Resorts International its first official gaming partner just two months later.

By agreeing a data-sharing deal, worth a reported $24m (€21m) over three years, the NBA became the first major league to capitalise on new sports-betting revenues and set a precedent for others to follow. By the end of the year, the NHL and MLB followed suit with similar partnerships with MGM, while the NFL made Caesars Entertainment its first casino partner.

The NBA also announced deals with Sportradar and Genius Sports to distribute official league data to licensed sports betting operators in the US. Silver was at the heart of all these deals.

Further enhancing its reputation as the most innovative league in the US, the NBA introduced micro-transactions, which allow fans the opportunity to purchase a portion of in-progress games. The NBA 2K League also had its inaugural season in 2018, making the NBA the first league to bring the franchise model found in traditional sports into esports.

Under Silver’s guidance, the NBA continues to go from strength to strength. According to Forbes, the average team is worth a record $1.65bn, 22 per cent more than 2017, and every team is worth at least $1bn for the first time.

Chris Grove, managing director of sports and emerging verticals, Eilers & Krejcik Gaming says of Silver’s achievements: “Silver successfully kept the NBA at the forefront of the regulated sports betting conversation without alienating fans or potential partners on the casino side. That delicate balancing act speaks to his commitment to navigate the league through the uncharted waters of legal betting in the US market.”

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Our other nine trailblazing executives are:

Alfredo Bermejo | Digital strategy director, LaLiga

Barney Francis | Managing director, Sky Sports

Darren Eales | President, Atlanta United

David Szlezak | Managing director, EHF Marketing

Joanna Adams | Chief executive, England Netball

Kerry Bubolz | President, Vegas Golden Knights

Laura Froelich | Senior director, head of US content partnerships, Twitter

Sean Jefferson | Director of partnerships, Man United

Simon Denyer | Chief executive, DAZN Group

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