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Daryl Morey Changed the Game, but He Still Hasn’t Beaten It

The Billy Beane of basketball revolutionized the modern NBA, but a championship still has eluded one of the most successful executives in league history. This year’s Sixers team, though, could be his best shot yet. Says Joel Embiid: “What I like about him is that he’s always going for it. Whatever it takes.”

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Daryl Morey always has been someone who does things his own way. Not just when it comes to using data to build NBA teams, but also when it comes to things away from the court, like cars.

Like the time he was late for his flight and parked his rental car at the terminal then tossed his keys to the baggage guy and gave him $50 to bring the car back to Hertz.

Or the time he was driving to the NCAA tournament in a frenzy to catch a tip-off and created his own left lane to beat the traffic.

Or another time when he had to rush to the airport so he called a team travel attendant to let them know he had left his bag back in his hotel. The attendant arrived and got the bellhop to let them in. Morey’s bag was in the room. So were his clothes and toiletries, scattered across the counters and floor.

One of the multiple former colleagues who relayed the latter story remarked, “Typical Daryl fashion: What’s the most efficient?”

In the mid-to-late 2000s, he owned a Lexus that he parked anywhere he wanted, regardless of the signage on the side of the streets of Houston. It kept accumulating ticket after ticket after ticket until the local parking enforcement agency stopped writing tickets and booted his vehicle.

Normally, someone with a boot on a wheel of their car would pay to have it removed so they could drive again. But Morey had another idea. He instead contacted Lexus to tell them he would buy a new car if it accepted his trade-in and dealt with the outstanding tickets. After negotiating and signing a deal, Lexus asked when he’d bring in the car and he gave the company the address to pick it up.

“As soon as that car got booted,” Morey said, “[I made that deal] to avoid having to go through the hassle.”

Another typical Daryl move, always looking to win a trade. But despite building a reputation as one of the NBA’s most successful general managers and a pioneer of the analytics movement, there’s one thing Morey’s obsession with efficiency and bold moves hasn’t produced: an NBA championship.

Morey’s teams with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers have won 62 percent of their regular-season games over his 16 seasons leading their front offices, which ranks fourth all time among execs with 15-plus years of experience, behind only R.C. Buford, Red Auerbach, and Jerry West, according to data provided by Basketball Reference. Morey is objectively one of the winningest general managers in NBA history, but all of those other front-office leaders have something he doesn’t: rings.

Winning a title is “really hard to do, and it would be pretty depressing if after all this I said ‘my life sucks.’ But I do think it’s pretty important,” Morey told The Ringer.

The closest Morey came to winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy came in 2018, when the Rockets reached Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. But disaster struck when Chris Paul was forced to miss the game due to injury and the Rockets missed 27 straight 3-pointers in a loss to the dynastic Golden State Warriors. Morey’s James Harden-led teams came close year after year, only to fall short repeatedly.

Whether it’s because of his data-driven philosophy or his outspokenness on social media, Morey might be the most polarizing decision-maker in the NBA, if not all of sports. Morey accelerated the use of analytics in basketball with the Rockets, using statistical models to help inform team decisions and to implement a system emphasizing a high frequency of 3-point attempts. Other teams followed suit, on and off the court, because even though a title eludes him, Morey’s approach has undeniably led to more potent scoring.

“There was Billy Beane and Theo Epstein in baseball, then Daryl in basketball,” says a former colleague of Morey who wishes to remain anonymous. In the early-to-mid 2000s, Beane’s Moneyball style with the Oakland Athletics and Epstein’s analytics-based approach with the Boston Red Sox were doubted, just like Morey’s methods in the NBA. Around the league, critics of Morey point to how his teams have folded deep in the playoffs, his inconsistent draft record, and his dismissal of team chemistry. But even following a controversial exit from Houston in 2020—a year after he tweeted in support of democracy in Hong Kong, which infuriated the Chinese government and led to significant financial losses for the NBA—he immediately received another opportunity to run one of the biggest franchises in the league, with the Sixers. They are a team that has been mired in its own controversies, from tanking games to playoff heartbreaks and burner accounts. But with Joel Embiid, the dominant two-way center who is an annual MVP candidate, leading the way, the grizzled Sixers have playoff experience and enter the new season as one of the title favorites.

Following a blockbuster trade last season to acquire Harden, who experienced his best years under Morey in Houston, and then a series of key moves this summer, the Sixers hope the stars will align this season with a reshaped roster around Embiid. Morey built some great teams in Houston, and there have been some good teams in Philly. But with a rising young talent in Tyrese Maxey and a group of strong role players led by P.J. Tucker, these Sixers could be Morey’s best work and the best chance for him, Embiid, and Harden, to win that elusive championship.

“He hasn’t won one, and we’re all trying to win one,” Embiid says. “What I like about him is that he’s always going for it. Whatever it takes.”

Morey says his wife Ellen, who he has been married to for 26 years, is his best scouting job of all time. “He actually said that in his graduation speech at Northwestern,” says Ellen, before changing her voice to imitate her husband. “He was like, ‘Zero in on the women quickly. Don’t let her go,’” I was like, ‘Eh.’”

Ellen’s lifelong New York Mets fandom is one of the reasons the two connected. They met at Northwestern during their first week in college, and soon couldn’t get enough of each other, talking about baseball for hours on end. They ended up in a “super geek” math class together, says Ellen, and by that point, they were already dating.

During the second quarter of Morey’s freshman year, he landed a job with STATS Inc, which was one town over in Skokie, Illinois. They wanted to hire more people who knew baseball, so he recommended Ellen, who was hired as a “fantasy phone operator,” answering calls about fantasy sports.

They dated through college and married in 1996. By 2002, they lived in Boston. Daryl had gigs as a consultant, and he taught a course at MIT, where he received his masters in business administration in analytical sports management.

That same year, not long after Bill Belichick won his first Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, the legendary football coach was a featured speaker at a conference for CIO Media, where Ellen worked, in Boston. Daryl tagged along for the event.

“Belichick was talking about how they analyze players, how well they fit the system, and intangibles to find hard workers, good guys,” Ellen recalls. “Then Daryl asks, ‘But how do you quantify that?’ Belichick was like, ‘What?’”

The notoriously anti-analytics coach mumbled and dodged the question.

“He just wanted to get out of there,” Morey says, laughing.

Morey got his foot in the door of the NBA when Wyc Grousbeck and the Celtics hired him late in 2002 to be the senior vice president of operations. But he didn’t come in as a basketball savant, rather he came in as a problem-solver—assessing ticket sales, item pricing in the arena, and anything else to do with data. Occasionally as time wore on, his duties included analyzing things on the basketball side, like salary cap issues.

“Over time it just evolved that Mike Zarren and I worked with Danny Ainge, with Mike putting more time on the basketball side,” Morey says. “I split my time with half ball, half business.”

Morey started producing stats-based draft models, which someone who worked for the Celtics at the time now says were “terrible” because they overvalued rebounding numbers. In 2003, Morey urged Ainge, then Boston’s president of basketball ops, to use the 56th pick on Brandon Hunter, who he considers his first draft selection. Hunter was the NCAA rebounding leader at only 6-foot-7, but he played only two NBA seasons before becoming a journeyman overseas.

In Boston, Morey earned a strong reputation for his tireless work ethic and ability to handle a wide range of issues. But when then-Rockets owner Leslie Alexander hired Morey to take over his team’s front office, colleagues couldn’t believe that he got the job. “Some Celtics scouts thought it was a mistake or joke,” says a former coworker. Current Sixers head coach Doc Rivers was with the Celtics at the time, and he barely even knew of Morey because of how little he was involved on the basketball side.

Morey was also pretty shocked. He was only 33 years old, had never played pro basketball, scouted, coached, or held an official position on the basketball operations side of a team. And here he was, about to run an NBA franchise.

“Everybody talks about Daryl, but they never mention that Les went a totally different route,” says Jeff Van Gundy, who was in his fourth year coaching the Rockets when Morey was hired. “And whether you love the idea of a lot of data people being in the game or not, you have to say it was an unquestioned success.”

Alexander was disgruntled with the direction of the team and wanted a Moneyball type of thinker to mirror the statistical revolution that was happening in baseball. Houston’s recruiter knew of Morey and asked him for recommendations of potential hires. Alexander wanted a big name to succeed his longtime GM, Carroll Dawson. So the Rockets called Billy Beane to try to lure him from the Oakland Athletics, but that didn’t manifest. Then they offered the job to ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, but they couldn’t agree on contract terms.

Eventually, Alexander set his sights on Morey, an unknown but someone who fit the profile of the leader he wanted. Morey grew up loving the NBA and consuming Bill James’s Baseball Abstract when he was a boy rooting for Cleveland sports teams. “I only analyzed baseball because there was no other game in town. If you’re trying to analyze a sport, baseball was the only sport that had data you felt like you could do something with,” Morey says. “And so I analyzed baseball a lot to win my Earl Weaver Baseball league and my fantasy baseball league rotisserie at the time.”

The Celtics gave Morey permission to fly down to Houston for what the Rockets said would be an informal meeting. Alexander wanted to meet in person, and he found out that Morey is a bit of a dichotomy himself. He’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a hot take about everything from musicals to table tennis to technology. But he stands at 6-foot-4, taller than the typical image of a math guy, even taller than plenty of the league’s players. Morey landed at 9 a.m. and by 2 p.m. after a long lunch discussing everything from basketball to religion, Alexander offered him the job.

“I remember calling Ellen, because you’d rather talk about things with your wife when you’re living in Boston before you take a job in Houston,” Morey says. “And she said, ‘Well take it before he changes his mind. What are you doing? Why are you calling me?’ So, yeah. That made it easy.”

After trading the eighth pick in the 2006 draft for veteran Shane Battier, Morey’s first official selection was Steve Novak, a string-bean forward out of Marquette, with the 32nd pick. Novak played 11 years in the NBA as a knockdown 3-point shooter, but he was a horrible defender. One time, Morey and Van Gundy were in the office together and the head coach was talking about how hard it was to get his rookie shooter Novak more minutes on the floor.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I know, Coach. Obviously, his physical tools aren’t great on defense, but it’s surprising that he is often in the wrong spots because his father’s a head coach,’” Morey recalls. “Jeff’s eating food and he drops his fork. He says, ‘What? Say that again?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, his father’s a head coach at the high school level in the Milwaukee area.’ Jeff goes, ‘If he were my son, I would have no choice but, in the middle of the night, to smother him to death with a pillow to save the family honor. The Van Gundy name would not survive if Steve’s defense was on our résumé.’”

The Rockets actually had the league’s third-best defensive rating that season, and it was no coincidence that Novak barely played. But they shot a ton of 3s anyway. Van Gundy’s Rockets teams took a league-leading 28.5 percent of their shots from 3, according to Cleaning the Glass. To show how far Morey’s influence has spread and the game has come, that mark would have ranked dead last in the league last season. And there’s no sign that the 3-point revolution is going to slow down any time soon.

General managers aren’t necessarily coaching from the luxury suites, but they do build the rosters and have a voice in strategic decisions. Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch experienced this firsthand when in 2009 he was hired as the head coach of Houston’s then-NBDL team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Rockets targeted him because his teams overseas played small and shot a ton of 3s, and they wanted to take that style to new extremes in the years to come.

“I was way more of an extension of the front office and Daryl than I was of the coaching staff,” says Finch of the team’s intention to experiment and shoot a lot of 3s. “But Daryl didn’t care how I got there, he just cared that I got there. So the creativity was up to the coaching staff … to use our basketball acumen. Because as I tell people all the time: Analytics is a guide, not a god.”

The Rockets weren’t the only team looking at the numbers. The data influenced the San Antonio Spurs to target corner 3s in the late 2000s, and the Mike D’Antoni “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns to play so fast and shoot so many 3s. Morey would eventually hire D’Antoni to take his pace-and-space experimentation to even bigger extremes. Under D’Antoni, Houston went from attempting one-third of shots from 3-point range to almost half, a shift on the court that had never been seen before. Their goal was to take as many of the most efficient shots as they could—3s, layups, and free throws. That meant they ignored 2-pointers outside of the paint, treating the midrange like lava.

“We were just in lockstep,” D’Antoni says. “But some people get carried away with labels. It’s not just about 3-pointers. It’s more like how we can make the team the most efficient possible. It turned into great defensive guys who shoot 3s, and then you have Harden do the rest. But when you got Chris Paul, it’d be kind of silly to tell him not to take his midrange because he’s that good. So we adjusted everything to the team’s talent, but at the same time knowing that we want efficient basketball players.”

Some critics lament the way teams play today. There’s now a perceived sameness around the league. Teams want 3s, which means role players are discouraged from taking midrange jumpers and certain aspects of the game have been removed. Now everyone drives into the paint looking to score, draw a foul, or pass the ball back out behind the arc for another potential 3-point shot.

Morey thinks too much is made of the homogenous results, because teams stylistically take different approaches to getting those shots. But ultimately, it’s not the stats that are to blame for the way people play. It’s the rules. The corner 3 is a closer shot than 3s from above the break, so teams seek drive-and-kicks to create them. And because teams want drive-and-kicks, they run offenses heavy on pick-and-rolls and isolations. And because teams want to stop those sets, they’ve adopted defenses that call for switching screens. If 3-point rate declines, it’ll have to happen as a result of changes to the rule book.

“When people are mad about the direction data will take a league, they’re just being mad at gravity. They’re being mad at the rules. Because analytics isn’t good or bad. It just is,” Morey says. “It’s going to tell you what direction takes you into a higher win probability area. That can make the game more interesting or less interesting. The data doesn’t care. It’s like being mad at evolution. It just happens. Analytics is just doing what everyone’s done forever: using data to do it more efficiently.”

In other words, it’s on the league office to change the rules to dictate behavior on the court. The league has already told officials to call fewer fouls that stars like Harden used to draw. If it doesn’t want so many corner 3s, it could widen the court to make it a longer shot or it could remove the corner 3 entirely or make the line deeper for all 3-pointers. The only reason these changes are a debate, though, is because of the way the game has evolved with Morey and analytics at the forefront.

“Daryl ruined basketball. Put that as your headline,” Van Gundy says with his trademark snark.

After Morey stepped away from basketball in 2020, there were rumblings around the NBA that he might dabble in sports media, or focus entirely on the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that he cofounded. Some execs wondered whether he’d get another job at all, after China banned NBA games from airing on its state-run TV, CCTV, and Tencent. “A lot of people wanted me to be a politician too actually at that point, and they clearly didn’t know me or they would know how bad I would be,” Morey says. It was a short moment, but he took a long enough pause to take a step back and realize he loved what he was doing. “And there was unfinished business,” Morey says, in reference to his title drought.

Philadelphia has comparable talent to Houston when was first hired, in that the Rockets had two All-Stars in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. The Sixers had Embiid and Ben Simmons. Morey tried to trade Simmons for Harden in his first season, but the Rockets decided to trade him to the Brooklyn Nets instead. A year and a half later, they finally reunited after a long saga involving a trade demand by Simmons. There was much scrutiny directed at Morey for sitting on Simmons for so long, but his patience paid off.

“Whatever you could argue about the end result of the Simmons saga, Daryl had a goal and withstood intense scrutiny to an uncomfortableness instead of taking the easier way out,” said an NBA general manager who wishes to remain anonymous. “Nobody would’ve blamed him for trading Ben for CJ McCollum last summer, but he thought that wasn’t good enough and he thought Harden was even with a long road to get there. That’s what kind of sets him apart, for good or bad.”

Morey got both a clean slate in Philadelphia and, eventually, his man Harden, who he has said is a better scorer than Michael Jordan. “We got a weird relationship but it makes sense. I’m still trying to figure it out,” Harden says. “I don’t know what it is, but we have a connection and it just works.”

Harden is one of the great one-on-one scorers in history, utilizing dribble maneuvers and deception to step back into 3s or hurdle his way into the paint. Though the 33-year-old is no longer in his prime, he’s never shared the court for a full season with a center as versatile as Embiid, who can bury opponents from the post, shoot from outside, or create his own shot off the dribble.

“And he’s never played with a player like me as well, a pick-and-roll presence,” Harden says. Together last season, they formed the league’s most statistically potent pick-and-roll duo, despite joining forces midseason. The two are also among the league’s most efficient one-on-one scorers, with Harden from the outside and Embiid doing damage inside.

“I get doubled and tripled every single possession. You got to have willing shooters on the floor, guys that are willing to just jack it up and take chances and not be afraid of shooting 3s,” Embiid says. “So that’s what fits my style and that also fits, obviously, James’s style.”

Same goes for Tyrese Maxey. The Sixers drafted Maxey weeks after Morey was hired, and he has blossomed into one of the NBA’s best young players as an electric 6-foot-2 playmaker. If Harden’s slower, methodical style is ice, then Maxey is the fire.

“My speed has to pick up a little bit more playing with him,” Harden says. “And his speed is what’s gotten him here. Slowing down pace, knowing when to attack, and knowing where the defenses are is his next steps.”

Embiid’s health is the biggest key of all, though. He’s in the prime of his career, but has an extensive injury history. Morey thinks Embiid is trending in a positive direction given the way he takes care of his body, the way the sports science team manages him to minimize injuries, and his own rate of skill improvement. After the GM wasn’t able to take Houston all the way during Harden’s prime, he wants to take advantage of Embiid’s best years. Morey has a chance to fix his wrongs. That’s why he waited out Simmons, dropped the bag for Tucker, and kept an incumbent coach, highly respected by the players, in Rivers.

“Anytime you’re close, it’s precious. You just never know. It could be an injury, it could be a guy waking up and saying he doesn’t want to play for your team anymore. You just never know,” Morey says. “That’s why when you’re in that top three, four, or five best teams in the league, you need to go for it.”

Taking calculated risks has defined Morey’s career. In his first move with the Rockets, he shipped the eighth pick in the draft (Rudy Gay) and Stromile Swift to Memphis for Battier, who was a steady role player but in no way resembled the type of star fans and ownership hope to land with a lottery selection.

“It takes some courage as your first move to come in right away and to trade a pretty valuable pick,” says a former Rockets executive. “It wasn’t just the risk of trading a coveted top-10 pick, but also the risk of betting on his analytical way of thinking, and betting on a player who he thought was undervalued based on his methodology, which was different from the market at the time.”

The Battier acquisition proved to be a home run. Before Houston signed off on the trade, Van Gundy needed to convince ownership that Battier would be their third-best player—but even he wasn’t convinced. Until he started coaching him, and then watched him thrive for years with Houston before he won two championships with the Miami Heat.

“People talk all the time about intangibles. Shane was also all about tangibles,” says Van Gundy because of Battier’s ability to play a myriad of roles next to the team’s stars. “And then he had the intangibles too. He’s smart, he’s tough. He’s an all-time competitor. This is not analytically proven, but Battier handled a negative result on an individual play as well as anybody who’s ever played.”

Those qualities can’t be effectively quantified, which is why people around the league have long said Morey has a tendency to overlook the types of qualities that he once questioned Belichick about: intangibles, chemistry, vibes, however you want to describe it. “People don’t think that Daryl can win a championship on an Excel spreadsheet,” Battier says. “That’s the perception of Daryl.”

Battier, Van Gundy, and Morey used to debate the importance of team chemistry, with the player and coach thinking it was highly important and Morey thinking its importance pales compared to talent.

“I used to love when Daryl used to diminish the idea of chemistry,” says Van Gundy. “I believe heavily in chemistry but I’ve come around to Daryl: More talent, please. You need chemistry but without enough talent, you have no chance.”

Morey says it would be fair to say he’s shifted his thinking as well, so they now meet somewhere in the middle. Chemistry matters to Morey more than it once did, which in part explains some of the maneuvers he’s made after last season when the Sixers lacked reliable shooting and a degree of toughness. This summer, they added former Rockets P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, plus Montrezl Harrell and De’Anthony Melton. All of them bring the hard-nosed qualities the team was lacking to refurbish the rotation.

Tucker remembers after Morey traded Clint Capela away from the Rockets, he asked which center the team would sign and was told it was going to be him, even though he’s only 6-foot-5. “There’s nobody like Daryl Morey,” says Tucker. “His mind, the way he thinks about certain stuff, it will be so left field. And he will talk you into believing what he’s saying makes sense.”

This season, Morey expects Tucker to play small-ball center in spurts, but not full-time like he did the second half of that season in Houston. If anything, Tucker’s role will more resemble what Battier once had flanking a dominant interior big in Yao. With Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Georges Niang also in the rotation, the Sixers have a long list of capable players to support their primary creators.

“Since I’ve been here, all of the GMs were really smart, except one,” says Embiid, poking fun at a certain former normal-collared executive. “There’s been so many crazy stuff. We had a crazy GM tweeting about his players, going crazy on Twitter, which was insane. While I’m here, I must be the most unlucky player in the world.”

Embiid is the last player remaining from Sam Hinkie’s “the Process,” which led to a fruitful young core, but also his exit. It was either genius or a disaster depending on whom you talk to. But no one would disagree that the Bryan Colangelo era was a disaster, headlined by the decision to trade up in the draft to select Markelle Fultz with the first pick. Multiple former Sixers executives say front-office members urged Colangelo to take a second look at Lonzo Ball or Jayson Tatum, but he refused.

The Sixers have had to clean up the mess in the years since. Meanwhile, Morey has been losing more and more of his trusted advisers, with Hinkie becoming the first major hire from his tree when the Sixers gave him their GM gig in 2013. Rafael Stone, Gersson Rosas, Sachin Gupta, Monte McNair, and Arturas Karnisovas have all worked under Morey in some capacity before going on to run NBA teams. Many other disciples have loud voices across the league, and a new generation of young executives hope they’ll someday be next in line after spending time in Morey’s front offices.

The freedom Morey gives his younger executives is informed in part by the way he was brought along working for the Celtics, handling a wide array of tasks. Some people like to know where they are, and what their role is and who they report to. But that’s just not Daryl’s MO, and he tries to get people who can work in that environment.

“I’ve always said I’d do a really bad job running a supermarket because I like to hire super capable people and mostly get out of the way, hopefully, nudging them in the right direction,” Morey says. “But I do throw people off in a big way often in that I give them really wide latitude and basically want them to use their creativity to accomplish the goals.”

Morey’s leadership can be chaotic. His front office will watch clips of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off after a meeting, or throw on Saturday Night Live videos if a staffer doesn’t understand one of his references. When Morey assigns basketball tasks, he might have an executive rank the top 100 available players just in case they open one roster spot, or they’ll debate what it might take to acquire the no. 1 pick in the draft even in a year they don’t have any draft picks. These exercises could lead to insights about how another team might be thinking, or it could prepare you for scenarios that may unexpectedly manifest.

“Daryl created this family without trying to create a family,” says a former Rockets assistant. “People don’t think he’s the type of person who values relationships, maybe just because of his public persona, but he has created this group of people who have all of these summer league meals together and a group chat even though we don’t work together anymore.”

Morey has been busy in his two years since taking over the Sixers. Only five players remain from the team he inherited (Embiid, Harris, Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, and Shake Milton). The NBA never sleeps, and rarely does Morey. Sometimes, admittedly, his work gets done in strange places. Like in the backseat of a car.

In Houston, the fear of a car accident and the appeal of using his phone uninterrupted inspired Morey to switch from driving to using Uber full-time, whether it was for long rides across the state of Texas or a quick trip for fast food. He sold his car and exclusively used ride-sharing services. But after moving to Philadelphia in 2020, Morey had to give in and buy a car due to the pandemic. “I should go back to Uber, but now I have this car. I don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to think about it,” Morey laments.

Morey admits his phone can make him a distracted driver. Others say he also looks out the driver’s side window for far too long, or directly at passengers when they’re having a conversation. Pretty much anywhere but the road. “I’m actually a very safe driver when I’m paying attention,” Morey argues. “People would dispute that too. No one would actually agree with me on that, even though I haven’t had an accident since I was 19 or something. But whatever.”

It’s likely better for the world if Morey isn’t behind the wheel, and instead a passenger scrolling on his phone, looking for good deals, and finding what’s most efficient. That’s how Morey got this deep into his career. But can his stats-driven approach lead to the ultimate success in his profession: a championship? And, after all the close calls he’s had, how much does it matter to him to get over the hump?

“Five teams have won two-thirds of the championships in NBA history,” Morey says in response.

Whether he’s driving, Ubering, or flying, basketball has taken Morey from Boston to Houston to Philadelphia, and all around the world a couple of times over, on a journey that he only could have dreamed of as a tall, nerdy kid growing up in Ohio. But there’s a reason he got into this business in the first place—and it can actually be quantified.

“Basketball is almost the perfect sport because it’ll never be solved like baseball. There will always be a lot of intuition, art, and room for creativity. I just love everything about it,” Morey says. “The nice thing about the NBA is that the goal is very straightforward. It’s literally: win the championship.”

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