Will Becky Bonner of Concord become the first female GM in NBA history? Could be   

  • Becky Bonner (right) during a “South by Southwest” discussion. Courtesy

  • Becky Bonner during her last game against Manchester West. photo by andrea bruce

  • Becky Bonner works with Team USA players, including Kevin Durant (left), during a past stint with the team. Courtesy

Monitor columnist
Published: 2/17/2020 6:17:39 PM

One day, Becky Bonner might be the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question.

Name the first female general manager in NBA history. Wait. Let’s revise that. The first female GM for any big-league North American sports team, be it basketball, baseball, hockey or football.


If she’s hired one day – and there’s a strong possibility that she will – the answer will be the kid who played at Concord High School. Now she’s the director of player development and basketball operations for the NBA’s Orlando Magic, whose front office has said they have plans – big plans, historic plans – for Bonner in their future.

Her duties now include everything, short of lugging around that portable steamer thing at home games and yelling “hot dogs, here!” And, as many of you know, when it comes to the Bonner family, Becky would have had sold more hot dogs than anyone else.

For now, even without the GM title, she’s highly respected, sitting in on meetings, discussing draft picks and evaluating players.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had, no matter what happens next,” Bonner said by phone from Orlando. “I was an athlete. I was very competitive, so any vertical move at this point is a goal that makes sense.”

Vertical means the GM spot.

Reports came out three years ago that Bonner would get a chance. Jeff Weltman, the Magic’s President of Basketball Operations, was quoted as saying Bonner had “unlimited potential.”

Another report said that Bonner’s official title was director of player development and quality control, but it was no secret that the Magic saw her moving up.

Bonner, meanwhile, knows what she wants and is reaching for it. It’s a Bonner family thing, a confidence-minus-the-arrogance thing.

“Becky does not want to be presumptuous,” said her mother, Paula Bonner, a longtime Concord educator. “She feels like she wants to learn all operations and management work, and she thinks that may work toward (the GM role) happening.”

Paula, who’s 6-foot-2, is the matriarch in a family of tall, talented people. Her husband, retired postal worker Dave Bonner, is 6-foot-9. Her brother Matt Bonner is 6-10 and won two NBA championships with the San Antonio Spurs during his 12-year career. He does TV work for the Spurs and runs clinics here, in his hometown.

Her other brother, Luke Bonner, is 7-feet and played big-time college ball and later emerged as a pioneer as college players sought payment for the use of their image in video games.

The boys prepared Becky well. She played on boys’ teams through middle school. She showed her creativity while playing Matt one-on-one on the family driveway, grabbing a Whiffle-Ball Bat to aid in her defense, swinging, reaching, adapting.

At 6-foot-2, she dominated the opposition at Concord High, got a scholarship to Stanford University and later starred at Boston University.

She played a year of pro ball in Sweden, and served as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland and the University of Louisville.

She worked in the NBA’s New York City headquarters and traveled with the men’s Olympic Team and its legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, helping where she could while promoting the sport, the NBA and its stars, and playing defense against such players as Kevin Durant in practice.

She worked for NBA-sponsored Basketball Without Borders, ran clinics and promoted the sport around the world. In Brazil, South Africa, China, Finland, Spain.

The Magic hired her in 2017. “For me,” Bonner said, “it’s been a natural and easy transition.”

Paula mentioned Becky’s strong desire to be part of something bigger than herself. “She enjoyed men’s basketball with the Olympics and working with Coach K,” Paula said, referring to the Duke coach, who has more wins than anyone in college basketball history. “She’s very excited about the camaraderie and the feeling of being a part of a team again.”

Howard Beck, formerly the NBA writer for the New York Times, did a big spread on Bonner shortly after she arrived in Orlando. Even then, this thing was bubbling.

“Unofficially,” Beck wrote for Bleacher Report, “she’s training to become a general manager.”

One report said Orlando had struck gold, shortly after Bonner joined the team. Secret gold. She quickly implanted herself into the Magic culture and did a little hocus pocus herself, which was part of a revamping process the team had envisioned.

There was a plan in place. Make the organization more professional with improvements at the arena. Make it more family-friendly, add some class.

“Our family room, we call it our living room,” Bonner said. “There’s an easy way to enter and get food and leave your kids with a babysitter. Having this inclusive family makes everyone’s life better and busy over the course of 82 games.”

She’s carved out some of her own contributions, and her list of duties could stretch across a basketball court. She helped coordinate renovations at the arena and hired a chef and a nutritionist. She arranges player appearances for kids, organizes team meals, runs errands.

As Bonner said, “It evolved into a service-based role. My job is to make everyone’s life around me easier and to help the players with what they need off the court so they can focus on maximizing their potential.”

If we stopped here, we’d still have a nice local column. The one about the Concord kid who buys sandwiches for NBA Players. Welcomes the players’ children to a new-and-improved facility. Things like that.

Elsewhere, Bonner goes to all 82 games, sitting where ever she wants at home games – team box, family lounge, trainer’s room to check on an injured player, a ticketed seat with her boyfriend.

She’s no hostess, though. She’s trying to dispel stereotypes, expand roles for women, move them upstairs, where the decisions are made. She’s on the ground floor of a movement to include women in administrative jobs, in the NBA and other leagues.

“I’m aware that I’m part of a minority group,” Bonner said. “I’m proud that I have helped bring female candidates in for interviews and I’m part of the process of bringing women along. I grew up on the women’s side, but I was also exposed to the NBA life as well.”

She works with young players, “teaching them healthy habits, financing and family dynamics, time management,” Bonner said.

She scouts college players, in person and on TV, rates their ability, passes on what she’s learned to the staff. She’s striking a balance between being excited and grounded, mentioning Matt’s former coach with the Spurs, Gregg Popovich, known as Pops, one of the best ever.

“Get over yourself,” were Pop’s words of wisdom, Bonner said.

She’s learning to do that. Keep perspective. She got a truckload of it last year, watching her father fight multiple myeloma and undergo bypass surgery. Dave told me he’s feeling better these days.

He and Paula spent their lives watching their three kids shine in basketball. Now, they excel in life.

Team officials were unavailable to comment on Bonner because it’s All-Star Weekend, a break in the schedule. She lives in Orlando with her boyfriend. She’s enjoying the time off.

“The job is more of a lifestyle,” Bonner said. “When you sign up for this, it’s making sure it works, being available to anyone for anything that might happen.”

Including making history.

Certainly no trivial pursuit.

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