The NBA’s 10 Most Influential People

By: 04.18.12
Derrick Rose

As Jeremy Lin made TIME magazine’s top 100 most influential people list today, it proves the NBA’s most influential don’t even need to be on a roster the whole year to move the needle and up their Q rating.

Lin’s placement on the list, written about by former Harvard baller Arne Duncan — now known as the U.S. Secretary of Education — made us think who comprises the top 10 most influential in the NBA. Lin doesn’t make this list. An amazing run, but it’s over for now and lasted too short. These 10 have staying power.

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10. Clay Bennett: Think of how much LeBron James was hated in Cleveland immediately after The Decision, and then increase it. That’s a taste of how much Bennett is hated in Seattle after buying the team, insisting he was giving the city a fair shake to keep the team, and moving it anyway to Oklahoma City. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz is public enemy No. 2 in Seattle for selling to Bennett, a businessman from OKC, whose facade of giving Seattle a chance was laughable. You’re not influential just because you’re hated though; Bennett heads the NBA’s Relocation Committee, which has a say which teams go where (yes, there’s rich irony there). Sacramento, Anaheim and even Seattle take note.

9. William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley: He’s a grassroots power broker whose contacts touch every level of hoops in the country. While he’s most known for matching players and colleges (he sat behind Kentucky’s bench at the national title game and celebrated in the locker room afterward, according to reports), he’s also played matchmaker in the pros. Leon Rose and LeBron James met because of Wesley, who is trying to become an agent now, himself. This anecdote by Oregonian columnist John Canzano is a telling teach of Wes’ power:

I once saw him walk around The Palace at Auburn Hills during a NBA Finals as if he owned the building. He didn’t even wear a credential. Wesley was so at ease, he went into the Pistons locker room at halftime. Later, a NBA security staffer approached him, and I watched to see if Wesley might get asked for identification.

Nope.

The security guard borrowed Chapstick.

Damon Stoudamire told me one summer a few years ago: “Wes is running the NBA.”

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