We often think of former players often making the transition to coaching when their playing days are over. But we often forget the players who pass on a career in coaching and head straight for the front office. There’s not necessarily a mold for the types of players who go on to make great GMs, especially in the NBA. However, there are plenty of success stories, so let’s look at some of the best NBA players who also found success as GMs.
The Logo himself has proven himself to be equally adept as a player and an executive. During his playing days, West was an all-star in all 14 of his seasons. Of course, the West Virginia native only won a single NBA title as a player.
However, the more than made up for it as a member of the front office, winning eight NBA titles as an executive and twice being the NBA’s Executive of the Year.
From the 1980s until today, it’s hard to find a single individual more responsible for the success of the Celtics than Ainge. He played the early part of his career in Boston and was a key role player on two teams that won an NBA championship.
Arguably, Ainge has done a lot more for the Celtics after taking over as the team’s GM once he gave up on a coaching career. He’s been undoubtedly bold as Boston’s GM and put together a team that won the NBA title in 2008. Under Ainge, the Celtics have continued to be a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference.
There was never a doubt that Dumars was a great player. He was a six-time All-Star and an instrumental part of the Pistons winning back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. One could argue his time in Detroit’s front office was just as fruitful.
Three years into the job, Dumars was named NBA Executive of the Year, and the following year, the Pistons won the NBA title. Not only did the Pistons win a championship, but they also made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in six straight seasons, building a consistent winner in Detroit, akin to his playing days with the Pistons.
Bird is one of the few triple threats in NBA history. As a player, he was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time champion, and a three-time MVP. Of course, it was always going to be tough to live up to that as a coach and GM.
Bird never quite led the Pacers to a championship. But he did some good things and is the only player in league history to win MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year.
Kupchak’s career as a player is largely forgotten and vastly overrated. He was ACC Player of the Year during his final year in college and was a First-Team All-Rookie selection the following year. He was never a star but ended up playing nine seasons, averaging 10 points and five rebounds per game.
Kupchak was also part of three title teams, one with Washington and two with the Lakers. Of course, he’s best known as the GM behind seven championship teams with the Lakers before taking returning east to help turn the Charlotte Hornets into a winner.