Photo courtesy of University Archives
Slam Dunk in the Big Apple
Line up the accomplishments of Anucha Browne Sanders’ career at Northwestern with just about anyone — man or woman — and pound-for-pound, point-for-point, she might be one of the most accomplished athletes in the school’s history.
During her three seasons as a Wildcat from 1983 through 1985, the Brooklyn native was Kodak All-American, a three-time All–Big Ten player, two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, the first woman to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding in the same season, the nation’s leading scorer (31.5 point per game in 1985) and the Big Ten’s all-time scoring leader until that record was surpassed in 2002.
Today, as head of marketing and business operations for the NBA’s New York Knicks, Browne Sanders (C85) is one of the highest-ranking women in professional sports management. Proud of her Northwestern accomplishments, on and off the court, she points to her playing days as the bridge between the divide that often emerges between player and executive — so much so that she sees no obstacle in being a woman in the men’s world that is the NBA.
“There’s a lot to be said about coming from an athletic background, but I didn’t want to ride my athletic achievements for long,” she says. “There wasn’t a WNBA then, or I would have pursued a playing career. I just knew I’d get into the sports business somehow.”
Since leaving Northwestern, her endeavors have been anything but athletic. Last year the Sports Business Journal recognized Browne Sanders in its annual “40 under 40” list, which follows 40 sports executives under 40 years of age who show great promise.
“I wanted to be able to stand on my degree and on my own scruples,” she says. “Playing the sport has given me a grasp of the playing side. I understand what these guys go through in playing some 90 games a year, with all the travel and the demands on their time. If you can speak the speak and show them that respect, they respect you all the more.” — S.H.