ATLANTA — In recent years a number of women have taken leadership roles in the male dominated sports world. But before many of them, Melissa Proctor laid the foundation of opening doors for young women just starting out.
At 15 years old, Proctor was already dreaming big. She had aspirations of becoming the first female coach in the NBA -- despite the fact she had never played basketball.
Although, she never got that job calling basketball plays, she did make it courtside as the first female ball attendant for the Miami Heat.
Proctor said the job was hardly glamorous, diving for balls and mopping sweat from the gym floor. But that’s where she started her sports career -- breaking barriers. However, that is not where it ended.
"Taking that idea and ultimately reaching up and being persistent, I had no idea through high school and college and even moving to Atlanta that it would full circle kind of take shape in the way that it has been," she said.
To date, Proctor is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena where she continues to be a trailblazer. She received the opportunity after she'd been laid off and her mentor saw what she could bring to the organization and offered her the position.
“I wasn’t driven by a title or by the perception of power or money it was really about how to make an impact and do good stuff”.
Amongst her many deeds, she takes prides in helping the Hawks become the first NBA team to open their building for early voting, and weaving Atlanta’s civil rights history into the fabric of the team’s MLK city edition uniforms.
The uniforms were so sharp that they even caught the eye of the Pope.
“We believe in inclusivity and diversity and so knowing that that work has been where we’ve been regardless of what took place last summer or the pandemic, it was amazing," she explained.
Proctor credits much of her success to just being her authentic self; a lesson she learned early on in her career. She hopes to it pass down to her daughter and others through her book: From Ball Girl to CMO.
“To be a Chief Marketing Officer of an NBA team and have a nose ring and locks and most times I’m wearing sweats and Nike it’s a great feeling," she shared. "But I also know by me being my best self I can encourage my team and others to be their best self".
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Like many in business, Proctor is often asked what she sees for her professional future. Despite all her accomplishments, she said she not one to set career goals, she believes to staying open to what fits her values.
“I always say I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and still say that to this day, so I’m very open to whatever God and the universe have for me”.