After he graduated from Trinity School, Michael Russell ’06 attended The Westminster Schools and the University of Virginia, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Leadership and Public Policy. In his first year out of college, he is already making a name for himself in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Associate Program. An avid basketball player throughout his life, Russell looked to his passions when deciding what he wanted to do when he “grew up.”
Q: What are some of your favorite Trinity memories?
A: I have a plethora of “favorite memories.” One was moving into the new school building my Third Grade year. My class was the first class to eat in the new lunchroom, and I still take pride in that. The trips to Jekyll Island and Camp Twin Lakes during my Fifth and Sixth Grade years were amazing. During this time away from school, I really grew as a person and learned more about my classmates. And since we are talking about favorite memories, I can’t leave out beating the faculty in the Sixth Grade versus faculty kickball and basketball games.
Q: What did you want to do after college?
A: Because of my major in Leadership and Public Policy, many of my classmates went into the public sector, especially in Washington D.C. due to the close proximity to UVA. Immediately after graduation, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be passionate about my first job after college, and basketball is something I’ve been passionate about my whole life. As I moved further into the job application process, I realized that the sports industry would be something I’d love to be a part of. I searched the internet and UVA’s career service website trying to find the “perfect” first job. In doing so, I stumbled upon this opportunity at the NBA and fell in love with the job description. I went through three rounds of interviews before the final on-site interview at the NBA offices in New York City.
Q: Tell us about your position with the NBA.
A: I’m in the NBA Associate Program, a two-year rotational program that consists of four six-month assignments in different departments within the organization. At the end of the two years, each member of the program works with HR to determine the best department for them and goes into that department full time. It’s an amazing opportunity because it allows you to see how the NBA works from many different perspectives and to network and meet people you wouldn’t have met had you gone into one department from the start. I’m now in my second rotation in the Youth Basketball Development Department, working with the Jr. NBA to help grow the game at a grassroots level. We aim to teach kids ages 6 to 14 the fundamentals and values of basketball and work to create a fun and inclusive environment for every kid who wants to play the game.
Q: Did Trinity help foster your career path?
A: Trinity absolutely helped foster my career path. I started at Trinity in Kindergarten, and it set the academic and social foundation that has allowed me to succeed in middle school, high school, college, and now in corporate America. Trinity is a special place because you are surrounded by so many intelligent people. I am very appreciative of everything Trinity gave me. None of what I’m doing would be possible without it.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
A: I enjoy what I do at the NBA. I love the work culture and being a part of such an inclusive organization is amazing. I look forward to going into a department permanently down the line and think that I will be here for the foreseeable future, continuing to grow within this organization. I’ve had so many amazing experiences already that I can’t wait to see what’s in store in the future. It’s good for me to grow in a new city. Outside of college, I’ve been in Atlanta my whole life, and New York City is a place that teaches you lessons you can’t learn anywhere else. I’m still learning and growing up here and enjoying the process of it. At the same time, I’m incredibly passionate about where I’m from and can see myself going back home at some point to help make the city of Atlanta a better place.
Q: Of what are you most proud?
A: I’m not most proud of anything I’ve done, rather I’m most proud of my family. My mom is the strongest person I know. She has her health issues and continues to be the greatest influence in my life. My dad works so hard to make sure everyone is taken care of in our family. He’s the one that taught me how to be a man. My brother was just accepted into a master’s program at the University of South Carolina, and I’m so proud of him and everything he’s done. My family keeps me going, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have them behind me.
Q: What advice would you give Trinity’s young graduates?
A: First, enjoy the process of growing up. Second, there are going to be times in your life where you don’t succeed the way you wanted to—whether it’s in the classroom, in sports, in your extracurricular activities—but don’t let that stop you from working toward achieving your goals. There are going to be obstacles along the way, but those who stay true to themselves and keep moving in a positive direction are the ones that will make it.
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: Outside of work I still love to play basketball. In addition, I have so many great friends up here from Trinity, Westminster, and UVA, and I love spending time with them. It has been comforting to have a good friend base that I’ve known for over a decade in a city like New York. I also enjoy traveling, so whether it’s for work or for my own enjoyment, I love taking a break and exploring new places.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with your Trinity classmates?
A: I keep up with my Trinity classmates all the time. We’re all over the map now, but anytime I’m in a city of theirs we make an effort to see each other. I went to school with some of the smartest kids I’ve ever met, and they’re all doing amazing things. It’s great to see how much they’ve grown since Sixth Grade.