The NBA recently celebrated the completion of its inaugural HBCU Fellowship Program.

Out of 2,700 applicants, 60 graduate and undergraduate students were selected from HBCUs to participate in the 10-week internship that took place over the summer. In total, 24 HBCUs were represented in the ground-breaking program.

According to the mission of the initiative, “the HBCU Fellowship Program aimed to give greater opportunity and access to HBCU students while teaching them the business side of basketball."

The fellows worked as paid interns in various capacities with NBA franchises and throughout the league office including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, human relations, social responsibility, and marketing.

In June, the program launched with a two-day event featuring a message from Commissioner Adam Silver. Also, a panel discussion was led by Lauren Sills of the NBA Foundation, Dr. Valerie Daniels-Carter, a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, Dr. Harry Williams, former NBA player Kyle O’Quinn (HBCU grad), current LA Clippers forward Robert Covington (HBCU grad), and NBPA President/Pelicans guard CJ McCollum.

Greg Taylor, Executive Director of the NBA Foundation, spoke about the significance of the opportunity to the fellows.

“In a room full of excellence, how do you separate yourself? You made it out of 2,700 applications, congratulate yourself, celebrate, but it’s time to work hard,” he said. “Now is just the beginning of your journey.”

Cierra Carter of Tennessee State University detailed her experiences in the human resources department of the Phoenix Suns.

“This past summer, I worked with the Suns. I had the privilege of working with the people and culture team in their HR department,” she said. “Some projects I got to work on were in recruiting and I was able to help host a career fair with the Suns. From these projects, I was able to gauge how a well-functioning team works, understanding what is needed from different departments.” 

Afiya Ward, a student at Florida A&M, worked at the NBA 2K League which is an esports league joint venture between the National Basketball Association and Take-Two Interactive. 

"I worked with the 2K League, specifically with league partnerships and activations. I had my hand in a variety of projects on a day-to-day basis—tasks included creating decks for presentations, tracking sponsor hits, creating partner deliverables spreadsheets," she said. "I was able to work on the 2K League’s HBCU strategy and also speak at social responsibility programs.”

North Carolina A&T’s Jonathan Jackson learned how corporate partnerships work in the league.

“I got to work in corporate partnership activations with the 76ers,” he said. “Some projects I got to work on were corporate sponsorship activations and getting to fulfill various assets for contracted partners.”

Andre Spivey of Morehouse College worked in several departments with the Denver Nuggets.

“I worked in the partnership, marketing, and media sales department within Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, who own the Denver Nuggets and several other Denver professional sports teams,” he recalled. “I thought it would be Nuggets-based, but it dealt with four major sports teams—I was there during the Stanley Cup Finals (for the Colorado Avalanche) and got to do game activations during home games. That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Jeffery Graham II, a Hampton University marketing major, worked with the Sacramento Kings on a project that involved 50 Cent.

"As a marketing and digital intern, I worked collaboratively in a variety of departments. One of my favorite and more impactful projects this summer was assisting in the Kings partnership interview with 50 Cent and Le Chemin du Roi. Contributing previous knowledge and further research on 50 and the developed partnership created more opportunities for me to assist in the actual production of the interview,” he said. “I had a blast!”

Breah Banks of Spelman College worked with the Atlanta Hawks in the Human Resources/ Corporate & Social Responsibility department.

“I worked with several departments this summer, specifically collaborating with the People+Culture, Corporate and Social Responsibility, and Marketing Department supporting the development of the organization’s largest community volunteer initiative (5,000 volunteers packing over one million meals). I provided strategic recommendations that can support scaling the project, diversification of volunteers, and overall project success,” she said.

Desirae Christie of Morgan State University worked with the Brooklyn Nets as their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fellow.

"One of the most impactful moments working with the Nets was when I served a local Brooklyn community through the annual “Give Back Day.” Brooklyn Sports &; Entertainment (BSE) teamed up with this amazing organization named PowerPlay for a day at a local Brooklyn elementary school. PowerPlay is an organization that advances the lives of girls through sports, helping them grow physically, mentally, and academically stronger. This project specifically allowed me to share moments of motivation, activities, and genuine connections with young girls who could relate to me."

Applications for the next cohort open in January 2023.