Aniya Mahaffey, a student at North Carolina Central University, interned with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Basketball has always been important to Antoinette Williams – but now, instead of playing on the court, she’s working for the NBA.
Starting when she was four, Williams would frequently be found with a basketball in her hands. She played through high school and got a scholarship to play at Central State University, a Historically Black University, or HBCU, near Wilberforce, Ohio. When the pandemic and an intense course load took her off the court, she shifted focus to graduating with a degree in graphic design.
“I never wanted to give up basketball completely,” Williams says. Then, she learned about an NBA Foundation fellowship that helps students at HBCUs jump-start sports business careers by placing them in internships with NBA teams. In January 2022, the NBA Foundation also launched a program specifically focused on supporting HBCU students who want to pursue a career in the sports industry. “I knew that working with the NBA would be a way to stay connected,” Williams says.
She applied, successfully interviewed, and was placed at the NBA’s headquarters, where she put her graphic design and other skills to work, creating end cards for WNBA teams and a free agent player tracker that she updated throughout her internship.
Google’s goal of building community through basketball as well as Google’s commitment to racial justice inspired the partnership with the
Through a highly competitive interview process, the NBA placed 60 students like Williams at its headquarters and across NBA teams, giving them real-life experience with the inner workings of basketball organizations.
“Our mission at the NBA Foundation is to increase economic opportunity and career advancement for Black youth and the NBA HBCU Fellowship program is a tangible example of the types of access to opportunity and workforce development programming we support,” said NBA Foundation executive director Greg Taylor. “We hope that the Fellowship program, with the help of partners like Google, serves to provide young people the skill development and network needed to pursue meaningful careers whether in sports, technology, or other industries.”
As the official fan phone of the NBA,
Khyri Lueben, a senior at Howard University in Washington, DC, also grew up playing basketball and turned toward a career in the sport thanks to the same NBA Foundation fellowship program. During an internship at the Miami Heat in the summer of 2022, Lueben worked with the data analytics department, coming up with a strategy for engaging fans using personalization that caught the attention of top executives at the Heat.
His experience with the Heat helped him secure another internship, this time with the Washington Wizards, where he works with the global partnerships team. Thanks to the skills he learned and the people he met during the HBCU Fellowship, Lueben is planning to continue working in data analytics for a sports team after he graduates in the spring, he says. Williams and other fellows like Aniya Mahaffey, who worked on business marketing with the Minnesota Timberwolves, also see themselves pursuing careers in sports management after they graduate.
For Mahaffey, pursuing a career in sports management would let her take part in the NBA’s community building work. Her marketing internship with the Timberwolves wasn’t just about bringing more people into the stadium – it was about supporting a fandom. That community power could then be used to support important social causes. “I feel like it’s really important for teams to come together and create an impact within their communities,” Mahaffey says.
While the fellowship helps individuals specifically, it is also contributing to a conscious effort to create access to opportunity and develop more diverse pipelines of talent across the NBA. “The Heat had around 30 interns, and without me and the other HBCU intern, there would have been maybe three Black people there,” Lueben says. “So our presence also helped us represent the people on the court, and bring new things to the table.”
By partnering with the NBA, this Google Pixel sponsorship is supporting an initiative that provides opportunities for HBCU students who are working behind the scenes to make your NBA experience unforgettable.