If you want a shortcut to unpopularity, it might be wise to look for work as a professional sports commissioner. Gary Bettman and Rodger Goodell are booed virtually every time they set foot in public; on the baseball side of things, Rob Manfred hasn’t exactly won MLB fans over. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, however, seems to be a rare exception to the rule.
Decent public standing isn’t the only reward that the NBA commissioner, though. Adam Silver has also built up an impressive net worth, capable of rivaling many of the players in his league.
Adam Silver’s rise to NBA commissioner
For players, there’s a fairly standard progression route to the NBA: you go from high school to college and eventually make it to the pros. Adam Silver isn’t donning a uniform and hitting the court, but he still followed a standard progression from a commissioner’s perspective.
Silver grew up just outside New York City and, after high school, headed south to Duke University; he then moved onto the University of Chicago Law School, earning a J.D.
After a year as a judicial clerk and some time with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Silver joined the NBA. As his official league biography explains, he wore a variety of hats within the league office; he “held the positions of Senior VP & COO, NBA Entertainment; NBA Chief of Staff; and Special Assistant to the Commissioner,” among others.
Silver eventually rose to the rank of NBA deputy commissioner and COO, serving in that capacity for eight years. In 2014, he climbed up the final rung of the ladder, succeeding David Stern as the NBA commissioner.
Presiding over some difficult times in league history
For the most part, Adam Silver has avoided becoming public enemy number one for NBA fans. That doesn’t mean his time as commissioner has been without incident, though.
Shortly after Silver stepped into the top job, then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on video making racist remarks. The new commissioner stepped in and banned Sterling from the NBA for life; the following offseason, his wife sold the Clippers to Steve Ballmer.
In 2019, the NBA was embroiled in another controversy as Rockets GM Daryl Morey fired off a tweet supporting the Hong Kong protests. The league distanced itself from Morey’s message, but Silver “stood up more forcefully for Morey and his free speech rights — much to the ire of the Chinese government,” according to the New York Times.
The commissioner also had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, suspending the season after Rudy Gobert’s positive diagnosis and eventually bringing the league inside of the Orlando bubble. While things might not be ideal from a financial perspective, Silver helped the league avoid an even bigger disaster.
How much is Adam Silver worth?
If NBA free agency makes anything apparent, it’s that professional basketball is a big business. That reality apparently extends to Adam Silver, too.
While the league hasn’t confirmed Silver’s exact salary, CelebrityNetWorth estimates that he takes home roughly $10 million per year. The site also pegs his overall fortune at $35 million.
Although $35 million might not seem like a massive sum when you’re looking at the Michael Jordans and LeBron James of the world, Silver still compares well to the league at large. Remember that there’s plenty of guys riding the bench and earning the league minimum; in fact, CNBC reported that the average NBA salary for the 2019-20 campaign was $7.7 million. While there aren’t similar averages available for net worths, having hundreds of millions in assets is the exception rather than the norm.
As NBA commissioner, Adam Silver has plenty of work to occupy his time; those efforts, however, bring in some impressive financial rewards.