Orlando Magic Legal Team Led by ILR Graduate
On the morning of her business school graduation, in 2005, Nyea Sturman ’00 received “the best graduation present ever"—an offer to join the Orlando Magic.
In the years since, she has served as partnership business manager and assistant director of legal services. After co-founding the Magic’s legal department, she was named general counsel in 2014.
Sturman’s team of two attorneys and a paralegal provides legal support to the Magic’s business units and other sports properties, which include a National Basketball Association G League team, the NBA’s official minor league, an ECHL hockey team and an NBA 2K League esports team.
“Much of what I do is similar to what a general counsel would do for any other organization,” she said. “But our product is a bit different—it’s basketball and entertainment.”
“Only in this industry can you go with 200 of your colleagues to the NBA Finals to cheer on your other teammates, who are on the floor playing.”
Some of the “great opportunities” she has had include working on the development of the Amway Center, a sports and entertainment complex that is the Magic’s home court, and on the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, held in Orlando.
Growing up in an athletic household, Sturman—who played field hockey, basketball and softball in high school and whose father was also an attorney—dreamed of a career in sports law.
“At ILR, I tried to introduce sports themes into every paper and project until I could take the one sports-themed class offered at the time,” she said.
Sturman recalls taking two Cornell courses that were mirror images of each other: an income distribution class in ILR, which presented the subject from an economics perspective, and a social inequality class in Arts and Sciences, which presented the sociological perspective. “That made for one of my most interesting semesters, because I was able to look at one subject from two completely different vantage points.”.
After graduating from ILR, Sturman earned a sports law degree at Marquette University, where she now serves on the advisory board for the National Sports Law Institute, and an MBA in sports business at the University of Oregon.
She was an intern for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pettit National Ice Center and the National Football League.
Sturman notes that, like in most industries, the Magic “are always looking to integrate technology” into their organization.
The Magic’s innovation lab, “an incubator for design thinking,” was one of the first in professional sports. “We’ve had a multitude of projects go through the lab that have had a significant impact on our business,” she said.
After more than a decade, Sturman still finds her dream job exciting. “Technological advances like virtual reality and wearables require you to keep learning,” she said. “Every day brings something different which keeps me on my toes.”