To say the least. The Mavericks General Manager co-owns the team’s D-League affiliate along with Evan Wyly and Eduardo Najera, after all. Son of Hall of Fame Coach Don Nelson, Donnie has been a part of the Dallas Mavericks organization for over 19 years. Joining the organization in January of 1998, he has filled many roles from Assistant General Manager to Assistant Coach.
He calls owning a stake in the Texas Legends “an honor.”
“We’re a philanthropic extension, really, of the Mavericks. Obviously our main purpose is the development for young, up-and-coming players. We have one of the best coaches in the league in my opinion. This is a great environment to play in. We consider ourselves a lucky part of the Maverick family.”
Today he calls himself President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the Dallas Mavericks, as well as the Co-Owner of the Legends.
I ask about what makes the Texas Legends such a rousing success, far and above the D-League standard most think of when associating with the minor league basketball league.
“Great people. Whether you’re a player on the floor, in a locker room trying to win a game or a championship, or whether you’re on the corporate side, great people do great things.”
“I’m just blessed to be working with some guys that really have a passion for putting this three-ring circus together. We are loaded with young kids with a lot of creative, innovative ideas and we generally put them into place.”
Donnie Nelson is a professional philanthropist. He’s made a life off of resources and consciously seeks to promote the well-being of others. He founded the “Global Games” in Dallas, which gives area high school kids a chance to test themselves against the top Junior National teams in the world.
He also helped create the Assist Youth Foundation, which offers opportunities for underprivileged youth in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex and all over the world.
The Maverick mogul is also a popular figure overseas and has used the foreign market to help build the Mavs foundation, as seen with Dirk Nowitzki and also Steve Nash. Of all the things he has done on and off a basketball court, he is perhaps best known for that move he made in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Just over six months into his Mavericks tenure, he traded Robert “Tractor” Traylor to the Milwaukee Bucks for the draft rights to the German Nowitzki. You know the rest.
In 2003, Nelson was honored in Lithuania with the Commander Grand Cross, the nation’s top honor, by the office of former Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas for his contributions to the nation’s men’s basketball team.
The Mavericks recently played a regular season game in Mexico City and Nelson is unsurprisingly a big advocate of the NBA and its Developmental League moving its game beyond the United States borders.
“I think collectively as a group we were so impressed by the people, first of all, of Mexico. Just a hardworking, gracious group of folks. I think more so than anything the thing that stays with you are the lasting memories of doing really cool stuff in the community. Getting to know the people in the community, the philanthropies that we were involved with down there.”
“Eddie Najera, as you know, is a part of the Maverick family. Mark (Cuban) is on record saying it was a clearly an incredible experience. I think the future is bright in Mexico.”
Despite the many, many hats Nelson wears, his priority is with the Dallas Mavericks. He does have a say in the operations of the Legends, but mostly he defers it to the capable front office the team has in place.
“My focus first, second and third is with the Mavericks. Again, it’s all about great people. (President & General Manager) Malcolm Farmer has been with this team for eight years. Coach Bob (MacKinnon) is as good as it gets in the league. He’s got the most call-ups in the history of the D-League. He does an incredible job developing young talent.”
“They really don’t need me. But for the major decisions, whether it’s draft or whether it’s acquisition/free agent, they of course give me the courtesy of a phone call and I’ll bless it or not.”
Whether they need him or not, Nelson is there. He’s also there. And there. He’s everywhere. Living an incredibly successful life as a man and a sports figure, he’s given so much from Dallas to Lithuania and everywhere in between. And in the words of Mark Cuban during the memorable 2011 NBA Championship run, he ain’t done yet.