James Walter Kennedy

A multi-talented individual, Walter Kennedy worked as a high school coach, the public relations director of both the BAA and the Harlem Globetrotters, and was the Mayor of Stamford, Connecticut. But his career reached its apex when he became the NBA commissioner in 1963. Although likable and approachable, Kennedy was an iron-handed executive who let everyone know where he stood on issues. He once slapped Red Auerbach with a $500 fine for rowdy conduct during a preseason game. Before Kennedy’s era, the NBA struggled with only nine teams, no television contracts, and sagging attendance. Upon his retirement in 1975, the league had increased to 18 teams, landed a lucrative television contract, and improved its yearly attendance. The NBA steadily increased its position on the sports landscape under Kennedy as he laid the foundation for the game’s future.