The NBA’s Ambassador of Basketball
April 28, 2009
Basketball fans cheered on 7-foot-2-inch Iranian center Hamed Haddadi during the 2008 Summer Olympics, where he led all players in rebounding and blocking. Soon after, the Memphis Grizzlies jumped at the chance to sign this talented young free agent.
Brooks Meek, senior director, basketball operations–international for the National Basketball Association, was busy behind the scenes making sure that Haddadi’s transition to his new home went smoothly.
“The thing I like most about my job is working with young players, watching them grow into outstanding athletes in the NBA and on other teams,” he says.
Meek worked closely with Haddadi and his wife, making sure they had the appropriate paperwork from the U.S. government and helping them prepare for interactions with government and team officials, teammates, and the media.
“I’ve gone through the pains of living in a foreign country, feeling like an outsider,” says Meek, who played basketball in domestic professional leagues in Hong Kong, Japan, and Germany. “So I tend to understand how people can feel confused and off-balance when they’re thrust into a new culture.”
Other aspects of his job include handling day-to-day government affairs and international relations issues, and planning and implementing Basketball Without Borders, the NBA’s global basketball development and community relations initiative.
Basketball Without Borders aims to grow the sport while encouraging social change. Each summer, NBA players and coaches serve as mentors and coaches at elite basketball camps around the world. Since its inception in 2001, the program has reached more than 100 countries and territories.
“We give 14- to 19-year-olds the opportunity to develop and then go back home and help in their communities,” says Meek.
While basketball is rapidly growing in popularity in Asia, especially China, Meek says the best international players currently hail from Europe. However, he believes Africa holds the greatest potential for player development.
Prior to joining the NBA, Meeks worked as a consultant on the president’s council on the Y2K conversion, conducting town hall meetings to allay fears about potential problems associated with digital technology in the year 2000. Later, while working for the Walker Marchant Group, Meek consulted with Sean “P. Diddy” Combs during his 2004 Vote or Die campaign.
But basketball is in his blood.
Last year, Meek was inducted into Lewis & Clark’s Sports Hall of Fame, in part for leading his Pioneer teams to four national tournament appearances and two NCIC championships. In 1998 alone, he was NAIA Second Team All-American, All-Little Northwest Player of the Year, and First Team All-Conference. He also graduated as the second-leading scorer in Lewis & Clark history and all-time leader in steals.
“I’ve been playing ever since I could walk,” says Meek.
Every day, he wakes up feeling grateful for the opportunity to combine his love of the game with his passion for international affairs.
“Often people think of the NBA as primarily professional sports entertainment,” says Meek. “Few people realize how globally and socially responsible it is.”
–by Pattie Pace