Minnesota Timberwolves Becomes First NBA Team Run by a Latino

Baseball may be America’s national pastime, but basketball is nearly just as American – having been invented in Massachusetts by an immigrant from Canada. And, it is undoubtedly more popular, both in the United States and abroad. Basketball has made inroads across the globe, with hundreds of millions of fans worldwide. The National Basketball Association (NBA), which is the premiere basketball league in the U.S., if not the world, reported that some 660 million people in China watched at least some NBA content during the 2017-18 season, and basketball is second only to soccer in India as the nation’s fastest growing sport.

As the NBA fan base has become more diverse, so has the league. For decades, the NBA has taken steps to create an international presence on the court. There are now more than 100 foreign-born players in the league – up from fewer than 30 such players in the NBA 20 years ago. But one segment of the populace the NBA has really struggled with is Latinos. Last year, Latinos made up just over two percent of NBA rosters, and the statistics are even worse in the front office. There is currently not a single Latino General Manager in the NBA, and there has never been a Latino team president or chief executive officer – until now.

Colombian immigrant Gersson Rosas recently was named the president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rosas, who moved to the U.S. with his family when he was still a child, is the first Latino to hold this position in the NBA. Prior to this, he served as the only Latino vice president for the same organization.

Given the proximity of the United States to Latin America, the lack of participation within the league is hard to reconcile. Rosas clearly recognizes he has a responsibility to help the league do better with Latino representation. As he told The Undefeated back in March, “I’m an immigrant … to have the opportunity to do what I do in the NBA, it’s very impactful, not just for myself but for what it means to Latinos everywhere. … The privilege that I have to be here also gives me a responsibility to give back. I want to see Latinos in every part of the NBA.”

Rosas had been dreaming of running an NBA team for nearly his entire life, but he knew it was not going to be easy. In the 1990s, when he was trying to get his first break after college, “[t]here was nobody who looked like me in the NBA besides a select group of players,” Rosas explained in an interview with The Washington Post. “I shouldn’t have been the first Latino president, and I can’t be the only one. If we don’t have another, then I’ve failed because I didn’t do my part to help others.”

[See Houston Rockets’ Gersson Rosas: ‘I want to see Latinos in every part of the NBA’ by Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated, 26.Mar.2019, and How Gersson Rosas, a Colombian Immigrant, Became the First Latino to Run an NBA Team by Ben Golliver, The Washington Post, 16.Jul.2019.]


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