Farewell to a trailblazer.
Legendary NBA executive Rick Welts will retire at the end of the season, the Golden State Warriors announced Thursday. Welts has served as the team’s president and chief operating officer since 2011. Previously, he worked for the Phoenix Suns, becoming the first NBA executive to publicly come out as gay.
Welts, 68, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.
“One of the things I’ve always been good at, is knowing the right time to leave a position I’ve been in,” Welts said Thursday, via ESPN. “For me, the time is perfect.”
Welts went on to say it would’ve been difficult for him to retire at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but with normalcy beginning to return, he feels like he’s leaving the organization in a good place. He’ll stay on as an advisor.
Golden State Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts will step away from his role with the organization at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. Welts, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, has spent nearly five decades in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/y2zvJ9t9wm— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) April 8, 2021
Welts helped lead the Warriors through their most successful period in history, with the team winning three championships during his tenure. Golden State also moved from the Oracle Arena in Oakland to the $1.4 billion Chase Center in San Francisco.
The franchise is currently valued at $5.5 billion.
Welts’ NBA career began in 1969, when he started as a ball boy for the Seattle Supersonics, eventually working his way up to become the team’s public relations director. His impact was felt across the league: he developed the concept of an NBA All-Star Weekend, and helped promote the Dream Team and WNBA.
“Simply put, Rick Welts played a transformational role in creating the modern NBA during his more than 40 years as a pioneering league and team executive,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, per ESPN.
At Outsports, we’ll most remember Welts for his unparalleled role as an openly gay role model in the sports business world. He married his longtime partner, Todd Gage, in 2020.
At 11am today in the Mayor’s office at SF City Hall, Mayor @LondonBreed married Rick Welts and Todd Gage. It was a good day, nine years in the making! pic.twitter.com/NiiVN255eG— Rick Welts (@RickWelts) January 11, 2020
When Welts came out, he told the New York Times he wanted to “pierce the silence that envelops the subject of homosexuality in men’s team sports.”
That is perhaps Welt’s greatest legacy. We’ve come a long way over the last decade, and it’s thanks to pioneers like him.