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Joel Litvin

Lecturer, Sports Management; Former President, League Operations, National Basketball Association (NBA)

Joel Litvin began his career at the NBA in 1988 as a staff attorney, rising to the position of President, League Operations in 2006, until he stepped down in 2015, after 27 years with the league.

As President, League Operations, Litvin was in charge of numerous areas of the NBA’s business, including legal affairs, collective bargaining, basketball operations, security, social responsibility, and player development. He ran the league’s approval process for team sales and relocations and served as the chief liaison between the league and the NBA Board of Governors on a wide range of business, competition, and governance issues.

Working with the NBA Board of Governors, Litvin led the development of the league’s revenue sharing plans, which enable small market teams to be competitive and profitable, and oversaw the creation of the first escrow/tax system in a professional sports labor agreement. On the basketball side, Litvin led a significant expansion of the league’s use of instant replay and developed the comprehensive, data-driven program the NBA uses to evaluate and train referees.

Prior to assuming his position of President, League Operations in 2006, Litvin served as the league’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel.

After leaving the NBA, Litvin co-founded the Animal Defense Partnership, a nonprofit that provides free legal services to animal protection and welfare groups. He has also worked as a sports consultant, including for the ATP, the XFL, the Crown League, and Joseph Tsai in connection with his successful bid for the Brooklyn Nets.

Litvin has served as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Penn State Law School and as a Professor in the Master of Sports Law program at Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia. He is also a frequent guest lecturer at other universities and graduate schools, including Columbia’s Sports Management program.

He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Madison Square Garden Networks, Inc., Hunger Free America, USA Climbing, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

At NYU School of Law, he was a member of the law review. He lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, with his wife Lisa. His son Jesse is a recent graduate of Tufts University and his daughter Jane is a student at Brown University.


  • J.D., New York University
  • M.S., The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


  • Spring 2021: The Business of Professional Sports Leagues and Franchises