Duke University produces some of the greatest basketball players, but the thread of intellectual prowess that runs through generations of these true student-athletes is even more remarkable. Duke basketball players become college and pro coaches, NBA executives and even General Managers.
Elton Brand is an African-American who not only took advantage of his opportunity to play ball at one of the nation’s flagship universities but parlayed a potent education into becoming one of two African-American general managers — three of color — in the NBA today.
The Twitter burner account scandal that led to Bryan Colangelo’s resignation — a scandal draped in the attempted character assassination of African-American employees and franchise players — has manifested itself in Brand, a person of color, getting a rare opportunity to lead one of the NBA’s 30 franchises. He joins Knicks GM Scott Perry and Toronto’s Masai Ujiri as men of such distinction.
Choosing Brand is a shrewd move for a franchise that needs to capture the moment that the city is in. Philadelphia has become the center of sports blackness, from the triumphant struggle of rapper Meek Mill to avoid unjust incarceration to the outspoken, politically conscious players on the Eagles Super Bowl-winning team, to the burgeoning wave of interest created by young NBA Kings Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. An infusion of young, freakishly-talented blood has made Philly an elite franchise again and the poster child for why tanking wins, having accumulated a roster of captivating all-world talent for the first time since the Allen Iverson Era.
Brand, who already proved his savvy as VP of Basketball Operations and GM of Philly’s G-League affiliate, replaces Brett Brown, who was serving as interim GM.
“He spent two years in this organization and has been around this organization,” said NBA TV analyst Steve Smith. “When (he was a player in Philly) and they wanted to bring a vet back for those guys… they brought in Elton Brand to be at the end of the bench and console them in tough moments and consult with those guys and be a big brother type.