So much of the way we watch and enjoy sports is determined by people who have never participated in a professional athletic event in their lives.
Casting a wide net, we searched the sports world for the 50 most influential people who operate behind the scenes. There are presidents, owners, managers, coaches, agents, doctors and reporters.
These are the coaches who change the way the games are played, the commentators who shape the national conversation about sports, the agents who decide which stars play where, the owners who build juggernauts from scratch, and executives who alter the trajectories of their leagues over a huge period of time.
In short, these are the behind-the-scenes people who are responsible for what we watch when we watch sports.
This list was compiled by Philip Johnson, Tony Manfred, Cork Gaines, and Leah Goldman.
Senior Vice-President of the N.H.L., hockey operations
The NHL's review system is one of the coolest processes in sports. Whenever officials need a review, they call the Situation Room in Toronto, where it is Murphy's job to watch every game. When a play is in question, Murphy issues the final verdict upon review.
ESPN NBA analyst
In a time when women are still largely relegated to sideline duty, Burke works the mic with the men. Starting as a radio announcer for her alma mater Providence University's women's basketball games, Burke has become a trailblazer for female analysts. She was the first woman to do colour commentary for men's Big East games and the New York Knicks, and she continues to become a more prominent NBA voice for ESPN.
Known to many as Tiger's swing doctor, Foley employs a biomechanical approach to maximise players swing potential. This year's U.S. Open winner, Justin Rose, has worked with Foley since 2009.
Carolina Panthers owner
The man who brought football to North Carolina, Richardson forced his sons out of the family business in 2009, letting it be known that he wants the team sold to someone who will keep the franchise in Charlotte. During the NFL's labour negotiations, he represented the owners--no small task for a man who had a heart transplant in 2008.
San Antonio Spurs coach
His monotonous pre- and post-game interviews aside, insiders say Popovich is one of the most insightful and interesting men in sports. His four championship rings speak for themselves. Four current or former NBA coaches served under Pop and another three played for him.
Head of Klutch Sports Group
Known primarily as LeBron's agent, Paul is starting to collect an impressive stable of young talent on his client list. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Eric Bledsoe and Tristian Thompson are all represented by Paul.
NFL Players Association Executive Director
THE NFLPA is happy to have a guy who spent nine years with the U.S. attorney's office on their side. Whenever NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gives the owners' side, Smith is there giving the player's rebuttal.
NHL Vice President of Hockey and Business Development/Director of Player Safety
Every time a player is fined for a dirty play in the NHL, Shanahan sends them a ticket and a video explaining why their actions were an infraction of the rules. Singular enforcement of the rulebook is some major power.
Los Angeles Lakers Executive Vice President of Business Operations
Following the death of her father, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Jeanie assumed the role as team governor. Along with her five siblings, Jeanie shares the controlling ownership of the team. Her brother, Jim, is expected to take over the basketball operations while she handles the business of the Lakers brand.
Oakland Athletic's General Manager/Minority Owner
The Moneyball revolution still reverberates today. Beane changed not just baseball culture, but sports culture; league offices around the world count more Ivy Leaguers and mathematicians than ever before because of him.
Lead litigant in lawsuit against NCAA
O'Bannon leads an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA that could radically and permanently alter the way college sports operate. O'Bannon's suit argues that players should earn some of the royalty payments the NCAA earns from the players likenesses.
CEO of Top Rank
Many see Arum as the Godfather of boxing. The founder and CEO of the promotion company Top Rank, Arum decides who fights who in the boxing world. The plagues of controversy and backroom deals that ail boxing frequently tie back to Arum.
organisation/Title: NBC, ESPN, Fox, ESPN
Ages: 54, 51, 44, 43
These men provide the soundtracks to the sporting events we love. Collinsworth provides instant insight as John Madden's predecessor on Sunday Night Football, Van Gundy colours the NBA Finals, Buck calls the Super Bowl and the World Series and Herbstreit frequently works the biggest games in college football.
Miami Heat Executive
Back in the summer of 2010, the NBA rumour mill was spinning like never before. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going to Chicago! No, Chris Bosh and LeBron are going to New York! Behind all the uncertainty, Riley was the cool hand who convinced James and Bosh to join Wade in Miami, on a discount, to create the Big Three that has won two straight NBA championships.
Oklahoma City General Manager
Presti made his first splash as a 25-year-old working for the San Antonio Spurs, when he was largely credited for the selection of Tony Parker in the 2001 Draft. Presti became the then Seattle SuperSonics GM in 2007. Since then he has built one of the best young nucleuses in the NBA with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
NBA Deputy Commission/COO
Groomed for years to become the next NBA commissioner, Silver will accept that role when David Stern steps down on February 1, 2014. Silver earned his law degree in 1988 from the University of Chicago and began working for the NBA in 1992.
Tampa Bay Rays General Manager/Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations
Friedman took over as a 28-year-old and oversaw the team's first postseason and World Series appearance. A former analyst at Bear Stearns, Friedman is a poster boy for the precocious, analytical wave of front office managers sweeping sports.
U.S. men's soccer coach
Considering Landon Donovan's sabbatical and Clint Dempsey's perplexing lack of mainstream national attention, Klinsmann is the face of U.S. soccer. Klinsmann has major hopes to overhaul the national system from the ground up, aiming to inspire a more free-flowing style of soccer. The all-but secured U.S. appearance in the 2014 World Cup will be Klinsmann's first as the U.S. coach. Will the showing be up to snuff?
University of Alabama football coach
Saban's Alabama teams have claimed three of the last four national championships and if imitation is the highest form of flattery, Saban can count nearly every coach in the nation as an admirer. Saban started expanding his coaching staff, now there are more 'special assistants to the film manager' than ever. Coaches throughout the nation work to replicate Saban's 'Process.'
FOX, ESPN, Yahoo! Sports
Ages: 43, 46, 44
When news breaks in the sports world, one of these guys is usually behind it. Voraciously followed on Twitter, these insiders announce trades, signings and other news first thanks to their incredible access and connections.
University of Kentucky men's basketball coach
No one has benefitted from 'one-and-done' like Calipari. Paradoxically, the Kentucky coach claims to hate the rule. Nonetheless, year after year there are stories of Calipari ripping last year's major recruit's scholarship to shreds when discussing whether he should go pro or not. A polarising figure, there is no denying Calipari's ability to recruit top talent and send them to the pros.
NFL super agent
No agent gets deals like Drew Rosenhaus. He became a registered sports agent at 22, and works like a man who has always known what he wants. Rosenhaus counts Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and Edgerrin James as past or current clients.
New England Patriots owner
His wife suffering through her final days, Kraft spent his nights beside Myra Kraft's side and his days hammering out the finer points of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement during the 2011 lockout. When a deal was finally struck, NFL Players Association representative Jeff Saturday said it was the owner of the league's model franchise who 'saved football.'
Former Manchester United manager
From 1986-2013, Sir Alex transformed Manchester United from an English Premier League bottom feeder to one of the world's elite soccer clubs, winning the EPL 13 times during his tenure. Ferguson's retirement this year leaves enormous shoes to fill not just for Manchester United, but in the footballing world as a whole.
Chelsea Football Club owner
The original billionaire football bankroller, Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club in 2003 and immediately reshaped the international transfer market with his willingness to operate at a substantial loss if it meant the acquisition of great players. UEFA has since instituted Financial Fair Play, which will eventually require teams to spend no more than they earn.
International Speedway organisation CEO
Kennedy oversees a company that counts more than $750 million in annual revenues and is widely credited for helping expand the sport. Forbes ranked her the most powerful woman in sports in 2009.
Duke University men's basketball coach
Coach K's coaching and management tree is one of the broadest in sports. Five of his former assistants currently coach other colleges. Two NBA general managers, Danny Ferry of the Atlanta Hawks and Billy King of the Brooklyn Nets, were coached by Coach K. With four national championships and two Olympic gold medals on his coaching resume, its no wonder his proteges are always in demand.
Former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach
She is to women's basketball what John Wooden was to the men's game. Summitt began coaching the University of Tennessee women's team as a 22-year-old making $250 a month in 1974. In 2011 she announced she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's before coaching one last season. She retired with eight national championships, zero losing seasons and universal praise as one of the greatest leaders in sports history.
ESPN's orthus on First Take
No heads outscream Smith's and Bayless'. What Smith and Bayless lack in substance they make up for in decibels. While First Take is a punching bag for serious sports fans, the show thrives by polarising every issue and inventing false dichotomies on a daily basis.
League revenues grew from $400 million when he was hired to $3 billion. There is no denying the sports expansion under his 20-year tenure, but many purists argue he has changed the game too drastically. Whether the allowance of the two-line pass is a good thing is in the eye of the beholder. The possible addition of 'hybrid icing' could hit the NHL next year.
Philadelphia Eagles coach
No one knows speed like Kelly. During his four seasons as the University of Oregon head coach, Kelly's teams went 46-7 relying on blistering offensive pace. How do you know you're doing something innovative in the coaching world? When Bill Belichick asks for tips.
Miami Marlins owner
What's sports without villains? Loria's teams' abysmal records over the years aside, his evilest move was sticking Miami-Dade county with a $2.4 billion bill for the new stadium he demanded.
MLB super agent
No one gets contracts like Boras. His most recent major splash was the nine-year, $214 million deal with the Detroit Tigers he negotiated for Prince Fielder. Of the four $200 million deals in baseball history, Boras has been behind three.
The outspoken White has led mixed martial arts out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Once a struggling company, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is now estimated to be worth around $2 billion.
We can barely explain why Wes belongs on this list, which is part of the reason he is so high. Operating without any direct business ties until he signed with Creative Artists Agency in 2010, Wes has been seen hanging with John Calipari, LeBron James, Jerry Jones, Phil Knight and Jay-Z, to name a few of his friends.
Writer/Founder of Grantland.com
Simmons went from writing an emailed sports blog for his friends while working as a bartender to analysing NBA Finals games for ESPN alongside Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon. His website Grantland.com is a daily stop for big-time sports fans and his book, The Book of Basketball, was universally praised and debuted at #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.
Dallas Mavericks owner
The model for the playboy sports owner, Cuban comes across as the everyman who fully appreciates his billionaire lifestyle. In 2006 he said referee Eddie T. Rush would 'not be able to manage a Dairy Queen.' When DQ management took offence and offered him an opportunity to be a manager for a day, Cuban was a good sport and led a Texas DQ for a day.
Dr. Andrews is the alpha and omega when it comes to sports surgeons. His client list reads like a who's who of the sports world--Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Jack Nicklaus, Emmitt Smith, Roger Clemens.
Member of L.A. Dodgers ownership group/ESPN commentator
An all-around mogul. Johnson led the group that purchased the Dodgers for $2.15 billion and also works as an NBA analyst for ESPN. Johnson is a model for any major athlete looking to transition into life beyond the game.
New England Patriots Coach/General Manager
The Mad Genius went 5-11 in 2000 in his first season at the helm. Since then he's won three Super Bowls, three Coach of the Year awards and amassed a 168-64 record, including playoffs. Not only is Belichick one of the game's greatest strategists, he is also one of the shrewdest general managers.
Founder of Roc Nation Sports/Mogul
Let's see, he started a sports agency in April and signed New York Yankees All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano as his first client. Then he inked WNBA rookie sensation Skylar Diggins. Then some basketball player named Kevin Durant signed. Not a bad start.
Chairman, NBC Sports Group
Lazarus oversees the Olympics, Sunday Night Football, The Golf Channel and Versus. With the combination of Comcast and NBC, the NBC Sports Group is a legitimate threat to potentially overtake ESPN as the preferred American sports network.
Charlotte Bobcats owner
MJ's sneaker brand is still going strong long after he retired. In addition, he's the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and had a hand in setting the terms of the NBA's newest collective bargaining agreement.
Knight runs the biggest sports apparel company in the world. He also personally donates millions of dollars to fund Oregon's suddenly powerful and influential athletic program
President of the International Olympic Committee
Rogge assumed office in 2001 and has worked to make hosting the Olympics more viable for developing nations. He will be replaced in September when a new president is elected.
Selig became the acting commissioner in 1992, and has changed the game in several ways since. The Wild Card, interleague play and the use of instant replay all started under Selig. Baseball's transformation from complicit to militant in relation to player drug use will likely be Selig's lasting legacy.
President of FIFA
For 15 years, Blatter has been the head of the international governing body of the world's game. Never far from controversy, Blatter and FIFA's Executive Committee raised eyebrows and claims of corruption when they voted to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The longest tenured commissioner in North American sports history, Stern will end a 30-year run on February 1, 2014. He served during a time of unparalleled global expansion, beginning with the 1992 Olympic Dream Team and continuing with the emergence of Chinese star Yao Ming. Viewed as a dictator by many, Stern was never afraid to make an executive decision.
In his seven years as commissioner, Goodell has worked to make a game of 240-pound men running into each other safer. The unenviable task has drawn criticism from across the board, but Goodell's iron fist shows no signs of rust. Whether it's stiff penalties for Bountygate, or a broad expansion of fines for helmet-to-helmet contact, Goodell has taken an aggressive stance on player safety.
President of ESPN
You've heard of that network out in Bristol, Connecticut, right? The Worldwide leader is the lens through which most Americans see sports, and that means major bucks: Forbes estimates ESPN's value at $40 billion, making it the world's most valuable media property.
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