An Open Letter to David Shoemaker, CEO, NBA China

This evening, the sportsfan takes a break from graduate school (and the first week of his new internship) to digest some career advice from the top, halfway around the world. (And also some Zachary’s Chicago Pizza. Not quite as good as Giordano’s, but it’ll do.)

Background: David Shoemaker is the chief executive officer for NBA China, headquartered in Beijing. He graciously agreed to speak with me this past Tuesday evening (PDT) about his career, for an informational interview I conducted in coordination with my studies per the sport management master’s program at the University of San Francisco and my own career goals. With his blessing, I am posting my thank-you letter here.

Dear Mr. Shoemaker,

Did you make a mistake today? I wouldn’t be surprised if you did, but I sure would be if you ever make it again. I have been thinking about my past mistakes since we spoke. Perhaps my biggest mistake has been to not make more of them. If I had sought more during my undergraduate education–more advice, more chances, more responsibility, more dreams–perhaps I would not have felt the need to spend more money on graduate school. That would be a most terrible mistake to repeat.

Though we seldom spoke directly of it, I felt our conversation revolved around pace. Coming to better understand your pace, both daily and through your career, was a privilege. We also discussed the pace of business: ideas, opportunities, and risks that slow and speed one’s working environment. There is the unprecedented pace of the NBA’s new 365-day approach to marketing. The pace of national, institutional, and individual progression. Even the pace of conversation. Timing is everything. I briefly brought up John Wooden; one thing he said is that there are no big things, only little things, little details. Being on-time, every time. Not pushing yourself a lot more, but a little more every day. Of course the difference between reading words in a book (even one by John Wooden, or Steve Jobs, for that matter) and hearing the voice of a current working executive is paramount.

Actions speak louder than words, and in a conversation one can only make so much noise. But as I progress through my schooling and career beginnings, I will keep your shared wisdom ringing in my ears, or at the very least remember to go swimming, not golfing. Even if I’m not surrounded by Ivy League lawyers, I’ve got to keep busy proving myself, at the moment as an intern, graduate student, and seeker of advice from other leaders in the sports industry. Still, from time to time I’ll keep an eye on the Weibos, RenRen, and other happenings in the second most important NBA market in the world. I can see the recurring blog feature now: “Holy Yao! The Latest in NBA China’s Development”.

Thank you. Thank you very much.


Colin Weaver

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