Team counsel for NBA’s Charlotte Hornets shares how he got thereIt was a 1-in-1,000 shot, but David Duquette JD/MBA’10 was willing to take it—again and again—until he succeeded.
“My first three years in Boston, I probably wrote a couple hundred letters and sent them out to various NBA teams, just trying to make contact and get my foot in the door,” Duquette says. “I wasn’t sure if I’d get a break or not.”
Today, Duquette works as the director of basketball strategy/team counsel for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets in North Carolina. He has served in multiple roles for the Hornets as his job has evolved and grown. Using his legal background, his primary duties are player contracts and acting as a liaison with the league office. But Duquette also scouts both pro and college players and does background research on players. Establishing the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets’ minor league team, was another responsibility.
It’s a long way from Duquette’s unpaid internship with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Over the years, he had made a connection with longtime NBA executive Rob Babcock (recently deceased) of the Timberwolves. In 2009, Babcock called out of the blue and asked Duquette, who was in his first year at Suffolk Law, “How soon can you be here?”
Duquette’s response was the right one: “How soon do you need me?” The answer: in three days. “I said, ‘Sure, I’ll be there,’” Duquette recalls. “This was the break I was looking for. I picked up my life and moved to Minnesota for the
Duquette worked hard that summer and was offered a paid internship—minimum wage—as the team’s basketball operations intern. He took classes at the University of Minnesota as a visiting student and traveled back to Suffolk to take three- and four-day intensive courses. After passing the bar, Duquette was hired full-time by the Timberwolves as a basketball operations assistant. In 2011, he accepted the same position with the Charlotte Hornets.
“For somebody who didn’t have any connection to this world, it’s a dream come true,” he says. “The NBA is very much an apprenticeship kind of league. Whether you played or came into the league some other way, most people start at the bottom ... and once your foot is in the door, it’s up to you how high you’re going to go.”
Duquette’s target was always the NBA. He interned with a sports agent and also worked for the LPGA Tour, but professional basketball was his No. 1 goal.
“For someone like myself who grew up idolizing Michael [Jordan] as a kid, it’s pretty surreal for the last eight years to work for him,” Duquette says of Michael Jordan, a six-time NBA champion, who also is principal owner of the Hornets. “You hear that voice, it’s very iconic. He’s been awesome as an owner; he’s admirable from a number of different perspectives.”
Looking back at his time at Suffolk, Duquette says his goal may have seemed unlikely, but no one ever discouraged him from going for it. Suffolk “positioned me perfectly. They gave me the resources and the latitude to pursue the passion,” he says. “Everyone was always positive about me pursuing this, always supportive.”
Now that he is living the basketball life, Duquette, a married father of one, says he wouldn’t change a thing about his hoop dreams career.
“Most people go to law school and they find the field that they enjoy ...corporate law, tax law, you’re a litigator,” Duquette says. “For me, the subject matter is NBA players. Everything about the NBA is enjoyable to me.”