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'Sport can be so much more': Leah MacNab shares journey to NBA Canada

Last Updated Jan 29, 2021 at 8:22 am MST

Leah MacNab, managing director of NBA Canada, with Julius Erving Photo: NBA Canada

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — As the youngest of five kids, Leah MacNab grew up never getting the remote control.

She had no choice but to watch basketball because that’s what her brothers were watching.

Fast forward to 2021, and she’s the managing director of NBA Canada.

“For me, the one thing about the NBA that stood out over other sports was the power it had to change social conversations,” MacNab said of her early days watching the basketball. “When I was young, the conversation about HIV/AIDS helped usher in and really changed the narrative was really powerful for me, to see that sport can be so much more than just a game.

“That was the league if I was going to work in sports.”

FULL INTERVIEW: 660’s Sandra Prusina hears from NBA Canada’s managing director, Leah MacNab

Her journey to the first female to take on the managing director role with NBA Canada was one of resilience.

“I applied for an entry-level job at the NBA many years ago now, almost 16 years ago, and I met the then-director of marketing at a reception,” MacNab recalled. “He mentioned he was hiring, and then immediately, without even knowing anything about the job, I said ‘I would be perfect for that job. Can I have your card?’

“I reached out the next day. He gave me the job description, and I had this sort of sinking pit of my stomach feeling that I had none of the qualifications they were looking for. But, I had every single skill they had listed on the job posting. I figured I would apply anyways.”

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She was later told she wouldn’t be considered for the position, but she didn’t want to throw in the towel.

“I called him every other day, pretty much, for about two weeks, and at seven in the morning, left him a voicemail with why he should at least consider interviewing me for that first job,” she describes. “I wore him down. He called me back. He told me I could come in for the interview and that I would be his very last choice and not to expect very much.

“I somehow managed to be the final candidate to get the role, and then to have the absolute pleasure of being able to build a career at the NBA ever since then.

“Each of us is the architect of our own careers.”

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As for the future of the sport in our country, MacNab believes it’s bright.

“It’s been incredible,” she said of basketball’s growth in Canada. “Even if we look at just our office, I started as our third employee, and we’re now 17 people full-time.

“The talent coming out of Canada is incredible. We’re starting to see amazing NBA players making strong contributions on their rosters, and I think that is going to continue for many years to come.”

Could we see another NBA franchise north of the border?

“Our commissioner’s been pretty clear that they’re not looking at expansion right now,” she explained. “That said, at some point, if the NBA were to expand, I do think Canada is a great contender in amongst another handful of North American cities and possibly other cities in Latin America.

“Selfishly, as a person who runs NBA Canada, that would be incredibly exciting.”