Shakim Muhafiz, Sports Editor
Morehouse College is not known for producing leaders in the sports industry, but they are known for producing leaders in the world. Golden State Warriors chief legal officer David Kelly is no stranger to this production.
The Chicago-native enrolled in Morehouse in the early 90s as an English major. He credits the HBCU for his critical thinking skills. This skill allowed the Morehouse Man to matriculate through law school at the University of Illinois College of Law.
From there, Kelly became a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. It was not until the 2011-2012 season when he first started with the Warriors. The team named Kelly as general counsel and vice president, then to basketball management & strategy in 2016, and in 2018 was promoted to chief legal officer.
Kelly has a hefty responsibility including managing every legal matter, salary cap, luxury tax, player development and more. He also oversees the human resource and public/governmental affairs department. His responsibilities ranged from both the basketball and business side.
His job also gave him a front-row seat to the Warriors’ dynasty. The superstar backcourt of former MVP Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have single-handedly changed basketball. He was there watching it all come together.
“It was amazing to have a front-row seat and be able to watch it,” Kelly said. “The 3-point line has completely changed… when we come down on a fastbreak, we’re not looking for a layup, we’re looking for a three.”
To reiterate the Splash Brothers’ impact on basketball, Kelly dives more into lower-level basketball changes.
“You see kids practicing this [long-range shooting],” Kelly said. “You have to see something in order to believe that you can do it… It’s beautiful.”
His tenure with Golden State also means he was there at the beginning of the Warriors’ championship runs. When hired, Curry was in his second year, and Thompson was a rookie. Eventually, the Warriors drafted big man Draymond Green in the next season. By the 2014-2015 season, the Bay Area team won their first championship since 1975, and it happened to be Kelly’s favorite NBA title.
“No one believed it was going to happen,” Kelly said. “For them to win it, that to me said a lot about who they are as players.”
But Kelly shows there is another side to him other than work. The average Morehouse Man is not just a one-trick pony. In addition to being a lawyer, he is in a hip-hop band with several albums out now. His group, All Natural, was able to get to a record deal while in school. This put Kelly in a tough position.
“I actually dropped out of Morehouse because we got a record contract,” Kelly said. “We got a contract with a company called Wild Pitch… It was the same label Gang Starr was on.”
The late Gang Starr member, Guru ‘83, was also a Morehouse alum and was one half of the iconic duo with DJ Premier. But in the midst of success in the industry, All Natural’s deal fell through because the record label lost its distribution.
“Probably the best thing that happened to me was that the contract fell through,” Kelly said while remembering his past. “And I got myself back into school and finished up at the House.”
Kelly first left Morehouse in ‘93 but then finished in ‘96. Although they had no contract Kelly, aka Cap D, and his group released their first album in 1998, titled: No Additives, No Preservations.
His band would continue playing music around the world. They toured in his countries such as Brazil, Sweden, England, and more.
But away from his work in the organization and on the road rhyming, Kelly and many other HBCU graduates in the Warriors’ front office wanted to find a way to help other men and women once like them. This led to the formation of the Black Alliance Network (BAN).
The HBCU alumni created the group in late April of 2020. It is a pipeline for minority students looking for a career in sports to gain information or possibly a job. BAN also strengthens the communication and relationship of the HBCU graduates within the organization.
During Black History Month, BAN decided to put a summit together for HBCU students. The HBCU Sports Leadership Summit will take place on Feb. 18 and Feb. 25. The first one took place on Feb. 10 and covered topics like charting a career in sports, sports for lawyers and accountants, and community impact.
The next two sessions will cover topics such as women in sports, various careers, authentic self, and more. In the Feb. 10 webinar, Kelly left the group with some final words.
“You should bring all of yourself to the table,” Kelly said to a group of HBCU students.
The lessons and knowledge Kelly obtained during his time at Morehouse were applied in everything he did for the rest of his life. Whether it was establishing a music career, going to law school, or now being a leader in the sports field, the Morehouse Man has excelled at every position.