Unless you’re 6-foot-9, very nimble and have freakishly good hand-eye coordination, a career in basketball might not seem like your most likely prospect. However, college and professional basketball teams employ more people off the court than on it. As with most high-profile sports events, the business of basketball calls for numerous skill sets that don’t require elite athletic skills, but instead, call for skills in communication, customer relations or sports medicine.
While players bring top-notch talent to the basketball court, it’s the coaches who build unified strategies for each opponent. Although nearly all NBA coaches have professional basketball experience, there are coaching opportunities at other levels appropriate for aspiring coaches. The job market is limited, but one that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will see 29 percent job growth between 2010 and 2020. Salaries range from volunteers to NBA millionaire coaches, with a median salary of $28,340 per year.
The fitness and exertion demands for competitive basketball players are high, and bring exposure to injuries and fatigue. Consequently, trainers and team doctors play significant roles on a basketball team's staff. The BLS reports opportunities in sports medicine are scarce, but should increase by 30 percent from 2010 through 2020. Median annual pay is $41,600, with the top 10 percent earning $64,390 or more. Sports medicine careers require very specialized education; both bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees are common among professionals in this industry.
Media and Promotion
The experience of a big basketball game wouldn’t be the same without fans in attendance and an audience that is interested in its team's success. News coverage and marketing help generate a fan base in support of a given team. Subject matter expertise and education requirements for these careers are high and subject to significant competition. The BLS projects a 6 percent decline in reporter and broadcaster jobs through 2010, with median annual salary of $36,000.
Management and Hospitality
From general manager to facilities staff, there are many opportunities in support of game-day operations at a basketball arena. Operations and support roles range from NBA management jobs earning more than $100,000 down to high-turnover, minimum wage jobs in hospitality and concessions. Entry level work includes serving concessions, cheerleaders, dance team, security, ticket sales, cleaners, retail and merchandising. According to Portland TrailBlazers Director of Interactive Marketing, Dan Harbison, more than two-thirds of NBA teams' budgets can go to player salaries, making revenue-generating support roles crucial to the financial health of the organization.
Referees are the most visible officials in organized basketball. However, the officiating crew also includes several support roles off the court. These include statisticians, timers and scoreboard operators. Sports information specialists provide official statistics to journalists, league officials and audiences not attending in person. The BLS projects 20 percent job growth for referees and sports officials between 2010 and 2020, with a median annual pay of $22,840. The top 10 percent earned $50,350 or more.
Chuck Dye is a professional copywriter and award-winning journalist. His experience includes reporting and copy editing, earning awards from the Football Writers Association of America and Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Dye holds a master's degree in communications and a bachelor's degree in journalism, both from the University of Oregon.