Two of Diesel Films’ employees, CEO Seth Shapiro & Marketing Coordinator Karly Finison both had the pleasure of working in the NBA. Shapiro was Manager, Video Production for the Miami HEAT from 2001-05 & Finison was a paid intern in the MVP Services department for the LA Clippers throughout the 2016-17 season. Although very different, they both have their takeaways from their stints working in the NBA. Here are 15 takeaways:

[1] PRODUCT IS KING – PART ONE

Shapiro: It’s all about the product: If you have dreams of becoming a millionaire, working for a sports organization may not be for you. For me, when I would look down at the court from our press box perch, I quickly recognized THE PLAYERS are the ones that make THE BIG MONEY. If you love the game of basketball & it is your passion, then working for a NBA team is the job for you.

[2] PRODUCT IS KING – PART DEUX

SS: Your work performance is predicated on WINS and LOSSES.  Personally, you could feel that you’re having the best professional year of your life, whether its in marketing, human resources, etc but if the team is losing & there are empty seats in the arena, your performance really doesn’t matter.  In 2003 when the HEAT was really bad, the whole staff actually took a pay cut, from Pat Riley down to the mailroom guy, everyone was docked 10% off their salary and as you could imagine, it was very disheartening. But when the team is winning & the stadium is rocking, you can do no wrong!

[3] YOU GET TO PROVIDE ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCES FOR FANS

KF: It was very fulfilling to provide season ticket holders and passionate basketball fans special and unique experiences each game. Seeing kids’ reactions to getting an autograph from DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin, or getting a chance to shoot on the court during warmups was pretty amazing. I know creating these extraordinary game day experiences is something the MVP Services team and Clippers organization as a whole take very seriously.

DeAndre Jordan signing autographs for young fans at Autograph Alley.

[4] SEPARATE WORLDS

SS: If you think an inside sales job will lead you into the General Manager’s office, you may be sadly mistaken. In most NBA organizations, Business Operations and Basketball Operations are totally different, treated almost as two separate companies. At the HEAT, Basketball Ops had its own office where only a select few were welcome. I would assume to guess that it’s that way with most organizations. Don’t get me wrong there are exceptions to this rule but this separation is common with most franchises.

LA Clippers Training Facility in Playa Vista, 12 miles west of their business office in Downtown LA.

[5] LINEAR PATH NOT ALWAYS THE BEST PATH

SS: Whenever the NBA Entertainment crew would come down from Secaucus, NJ to shoot a piece on the HEAT, I would always pick their brain on various topics, from cameras to career.  I’ll always remember one producer gave me sage advice, he said, “To make more money in this business (production) you would have to move around to different companies,” and that “a linear path didn’t lead to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Unfortunately I can’t remember his name but he was absolutely right.

[6] NOT ALL FRANCHISES ARE BUILT THE SAME

SS: Led by Marina DeMaio (Disney) & Marlene Hendricks, two human resource gems, working for the Miami HEAT was a very pleasant experience. From VPs to Coordinators, the staff was very friendly and created a very comfortable work environment.  Bottom line, 601 Biscayne Boulevard was a great place to work.

KF: As with any NBA front office, each day you’re working alongside some of the best in the sports industry. It was inspiring even as an intern to be able to sit in a room and share your own ideas with such accomplished professionals who all have years of experience in the industry.

[7] ADDED VALUE

SS: While you may not be breaking the bank working for a NBA franchise, the cache that comes with working for a NBA team, especially in small markets, is extremely high.  Did I get VIP access at Prive? Yes. Could I cut a three hour line at Joe’s Stone Crab? Yes. All because of one thing, my business card with the ball and flame on it. So while you may have to pretend that you’re a baller, all those connects are there for you to take advantage of, because of your job.

[8] CROWD REACTION

SS: For someone like me who was producing pieces for HEATv (the in-arena video screens) which became the perennial entertainment leader in the NBA, it was always amazing to see if the crowd would get pumped to one of my 4th quarter hype videos or laugh to a comedy sketch about Burnie the Mascot during the first half. That immediate reaction is definitely something I miss. Now if I have a show or piece on TV, I have to rely on twitter to see what people think!

A HEATv Classic, Burnie: True Hollywood Story

[9] STARTING FROM THE BOTTOM

KF: For interns, not every project you work on will be the most exciting. With that said, it’s often the mundane tasks or busy work that require the most attention to detail. I remember before the season had started and season ticket booklets were being sent out, a number of season ticket holders had either moved or needed their tickets shipped to a different address. For each booklet sent to the wrong address, we had to call Fedex to get them redirected. As you can imagine it was a pretty chaotic scene. Even so, it was really special to see pictures of season ticket holders so excited to receive their booklets. It definitely built up the excitement and energy leading into the season.

[10] 9-5 Fuhgeddaboutit

SS: You will have to stay for most if not all games, especially if you’re involved with the game experience, which most staff are, from marketing to customer service. Also, you’re working in a hyper-competitive environment so if you don’t put the extra hours in to show your value, you will get lost in the weeds. When it comes time to when they want to trim the fat, guess who is the first to go? Yup that’s right, the employee working bankers hours.

[11] FIND A MENTOR

SS: There are a ton of quality people in these organizations. Make sure you latch on to one and learn the most you can from those people. Luckily I was able to work for Ed Filomia, a very talented producer and editor to this day, & I was able to improve my skills under his tutelage.

Shap Diesel & Shaq Diesel– the muse for the name, Diesel Films.

YES, FIND A MENTOR, BUT EVERYONE YOU MEET MAY NOT BE THAT PERSON.

KF: While mentors are extremely valuable, it may take some time to develop a caring relationship with one or some. Realize not everyone in an organization will be invested in your personal growth and prepared or want to be a mentor to you.

[12] MY EXPERIENCE AT THE CLIPS HELPED ME BUILD A NETWORK IN L.A.

KF: Interning for the Clippers was my first job in Los Angeles. Not only did I meet so many people part of the Clippers organization, but also game night staff members, ushers and season ticket holders. Overall, this helped me build a professional network in LA and make friends along the way too.

KF: Posing for a picture with my right-hand JP Cadena before the Clippers’ first playoff game.

[13] THE SEASONS CAN BECOME MONOTONOUS

SS: If you like change and spontaneity, this also may not be the place for you. While it’s a challenge to make each season different, inherently most seasons are usually the same when it comes to the projects you will be working on. Most of the community relations and sales initiatives from year to year are the same. Now if your team goes from 25 wins to 55 wins, than that is a ton of fun and can add a ton of value to your year.

[14] MOVING UP IS HARD TO DO

SS: Remember working for a NBA team is a DREAM JOB for most people & that probably means your boss as well.  Departments are staffed lean so there is not a ton of mobility. So be ready to grind it out and don’t expect promotions to happen too frequently.

[15] OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN

KF: More than anything, interning for the Clippers organization provided me the opportunity to learn how an NBA front office works. There’s so much that goes into both the business and basketball operations sides of a team that not even the most knowledgable basketball fans are aware of. Getting such hands-on experience right after graduating college was invaluable.



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