Brand talks Billy King's influence, ‘unconscious bias' in front offices, more


If not for former Sixers general manager Billy King, current Sixers GM Elton Brand may very well have taken a much different path after his playing career.

Brand was persuaded by King to accept a job as the GM of the Sixers’ G-League affiliate in 2017, then the Delaware 87ers. 

“Billy King was really helpful — ex-GM, went to Duke,” Brand told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Danny Pommells in an interview on the Sixers Talk podcast. “He would spend time with me and say, ‘Hey, this is what the job is.’ When I was thinking about doing the G League, (former Sixers president of basketball operations) Bryan Colangelo said, ‘Hey, you get your reps scouting. There’s an opportunity in the G League; that might be beneath you. You’re a few-time All-Star, you’ve made a lot …’ And I’m like, ‘What should I do?’ And (King is) like, ‘Listen, there’s a lot of athletes, there’s a lot of people that look like us that would love the opportunity to be in management in any respect. You have to take that job. It’s bigger than you.’ 

“This is the G-League job. This is not even the big NBA glitz and glamor, staying at the fancy hotels. This is the G-League job, going to Canton, Ohio, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Sioux Falls in a winter storm in a rental car. That’s the life that I had to do, according to him. He’s like, ‘You have to take this for people that went before you and people that’ll come behind you.’ He was really instrumental in taking the role, and understanding what a GM did and what the role was.”

After Colangelo’s resignation following the scandal of “Burnergate," Brand was named Sixers GM in 2018. One of 10 Black general managers in the NBA, Brand hopes to see progress with diversifying front offices.

“I’d say diversity and inclusion — including different thoughts, different backgrounds, you can see how important that is,” Brand said. “I think we have to get rid of this unconscious bias of ‘Someone looks like me, I want to give them a chance.’ I don’t think it’s on purpose, (but) you’re excluding. You’re just comfortable with your group, you’re comfortable with people that look like you or people that come from your similar background.

“Then, you have groupthink and you won’t be as successful. Giving people of color, women, people of different ethnicities, different backgrounds, religions — whatever it is — opportunities, I think your organization will be much, much better, and be able to grow and learn from each other.”

Below are several of the other topics Brand discussed with Pommells:

Brand’s early career goals 

“I grew up in a single-parent home and my goal was to buy my mom a house. I was like, I can get a good job, I can work at Morgan Stanley, I can work on Wall Street and make money. But then basketball came, and I saw that as a vehicle to not only get a scholarship but once I got to Duke, the dream of being an NBA player became true.”

Why Brand protested racial injustice in June 

“It was early. I think it was that first weekend. It was before it became popular and everyone could do it. I just thought to myself, ‘What will I talk to the players about?’ I have these players for social equality. They want to represent themselves.

"My children, when they say, ‘Dad, what did you do during this time?’ It’s like, ‘Well, kids, here’s a picture. I was out there marching with a lot of people of all races, all colors, all backgrounds, all financial situations, and we were all there for equality and justice.’ It was a crossroads, and you can lose a lot, but you have to step out there to stand up for what’s right.”

Brand's personal experiences with discrimination 

“I’m pulled over because I’m driving my mom’s nice car — this is my second year in the league — and they wanted to search it. I’m like, ‘What? Of course you can search it. Search it up and down.’ In the back of my head I’m like, I don’t think my mom’s got anything in here that’s illegal. Of course there’s nothing there. They end up apologizing. The partner says, ‘Oh, he’s a hockey fan. Sorry, Mr. Brand.’ But it shouldn’t be about basketball or sports. It’s about humanity and people. I’ve been in tons of situations where some celebrity and who I am gave me a pass and I got out of it easy… they’re all not right.”

Brand’s passion for film production and storytelling 

“I feel like storytelling, it shapes who we are, it shapes what we believe. You talk about race, racism and prejudice, it’s shaped by stories and beliefs. To kind of change that thought — you can see that in books, you can see that in film — you can see that. The more you see it, I think the more it’ll be accepted.”

You can listen to the full podcast here

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