SAN FRANCISCO—The Golden State Warriors announced that team President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts has decided to step down at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.
The announcement came from the Warriors Twitter account, where they thanked Welts for everything he has done for the sport and the Warriors franchise. The Basketball Hall of Fame executive spent nearly five decades in the NBA in roles with three different teams: the Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns, and Golden State Warriors. In 2018, Welts was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, highlighting an illustrious career in NBA front offices.
Welts began his career in the NBA in 1969 as a ball-boy for the at the age of 16, and was part of the team’s 1979 championship team, serving as the Sonics’ public relations director. From 1982-1999, Welts in New York at the NBA’s league office, working his way up to President of NBA Properties after serving as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.
During his 17 years working in the league office, Welts was credited for creating the NBA All-Star Weekend concept in 1984 and the marketing guru who came up with the campaign of the “Dream Team,” the 1992 Team USA Barcelona Olympic Team that won gold. Welts also played a big role in launching the WNBA in 1998, for which he won “Marketer of the Year” by Brandweek.
He made history by becoming the first prominent American sports executive to come out as gay during an interview with The New York Times in 2011.
In 2011, he became the president of the Golden State Warriors. From 2015-2019, the team went to five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three championships in 2015, 2017, and 2018 with a roster full of stars such as Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant.
Joe Lacob, Warriors Co-Executive Chairman and CEO, said that introducing Welts to the franchise was a memorable day for him.
“He noted the Warriors franchise was always viewed as a sleeping giant that could be very successful if it ever got into the right hands,” Lacob said in a statement. “Well, there were no better hands than those of Rick Welts.”
Welts will remain with the Warriors as an advisor, and the team is expected to name a new team President within the next week, per reports.