Nick Arison's ascension on the Miami Heat's front office ladder may have been practically guaranteed, but that doesn't mean he didn't work for it.
Arison, Miami's 32-year-old CEO who also happens to be the son of the team's billionaire owner Micky Arison, got his start working for the franchise in the mid-1990s as a floor mopper and a towel boy.
After high school he studied at Duke, where he worked as a manager for the basketball team for all four years. When Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was tapped to lead the U.S. national team, he brought Arison along with him.
“I was blown away by how humble he was,” Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of USA Basketball, told Bloomberg News of Arison. "You wouldn’t have picked him out on a bet as someone who may have been privileged growing up. He was a doer, a giver."
Arison befriended LeBron James while working for Team USA, and years later that friendship earned him a hug from James when he walked into a meeting with the then-free agent as part of the Miami delegation.
“He was the one person that when we walked into the room LeBron gave a hug to and said, 'How ya doing?'" Micky Arison told Bloomberg News.
Stars like Kobe Bryant now recognize the elder Arison thanks to their connection to Nick.
"Increasingly, Micky is becoming known around the league as Nick's dad," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
Arison started in ticket and suite sales when he returned to the Heat, and he's gradually moved up to vice president of basketball operations and then to CEO. He can be seen sitting next to his dad at games, and one day he will likely succeed his father as owner or even Pat Riley as president. In fact, Riley has referred to Nick before as "my future boss."
The younger Arison realized early on that he didn't want it to seem like he was simply the beneficiary of good genes, and now that he's risen to near the top of one of the most popular organizations in pro sports, his hard work has paid off in more ways than one.
“From the beginning, I wanted to put my head down and work my butt off and earn anything I received,” Arison told Sports Business Journal last year. "I didn't want anyone to think I was allowed to get away with what they wouldn’t have."