Nuggets celebrate Women’s History Month: Recognizing Lisa Johnson’s trailblazing impact
Lisa Johnson has seen it all.
Currently serving as the Nuggets’ VP of Basketball Administration, Johnson has been with the organization for nearly four decades, gaining unique experiences along the way as she has paved an admirable path in her career.
The passion to learn and grow every single day continues to drive Johnson, who got her start with the Nuggets in a temporary sales position back in 1981. Since then, Johnson has worked in community relations, media relations and basketball operations before ultimately landing in her current role.
As VP of Basketball Administration, Johnson makes an impact across a wide spectrum of initiatives and operations that are crucial to Denver’s success both on-and-off the court. In addition to communicating with various departments within the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment umbrella, Johnson also oversees the team travel, player appearance program, NBA game scheduling, basketball staff ticketing, arena security, and special Nuggets related events.
“I just wanted to constantly learn, grow and be a part of it,” Johnson told Nuggets.com. “That hasn’t changed after 39 years. I still want to learn; I still want to grow and do the very best that I can. I want to be the best person for the job, not so much as a woman, but just as a person.”
Although Johnson never focused on her position as a woman within the Nuggets organization as her career developed, she understands and appreciates the opportunity to create a path for young women to seize and build on in the future.
“Absolutely,” Johnson said when asked if she thinks about how she’s created a path for women entering the industry. “More so the older I get and longer I’ve been doing this and now that I have young women reaching out to me asking questions and looking up to me as a leader to help them. It’s very humbling for me. I’ve been doing this for so long that I never thought of being a trailblazer but now I feel that I really want to help the young women coming up.”
For women looking to break into the sports industry, Johnson has several pieces of advice, which she happily provides to those who reach out to her.
“Have the mindset that I’ve had. Be the best employee that you can be,” Johnson said. “You might have to work a little harder to gain more respect, but I haven’t typically felt that. Though there have been times where I may have had to work harder to prove myself or was made to feel that way. But, be flexible, take the opportunities and don’t expect anything. You have to work hard, regardless of who you are.”
Johnson has seen the world of professional sports grow and develop since her first role with the Nuggets in the sales department. As Johnson revealed in a Five Questions interview with Nuggets.com back last summer, the size of the Nuggets’ staff was around 25 people, which led everyone to extend their hands in different areas of the organization, from running game entertainment to meeting with special guests at games.
As a result, there is no such thing as a typical day for Johnson (a phrase you consistently hear in the sports industry given how rapidly plans or events can change). But as Johnson approaches her 40th season with the Nuggets, that aspect of the job is rewarding and most exciting.
“I continue to push myself because I know every day is going to be different, and that drives me,” Johnson said. “You never know what you’re going to deal with on a given day and that drives me. I never get bored and I never come into work wondering what I’m going to do today.”
When asked about the progress made in sports when it comes to opportunities for women, Johnson appreciates the growth made but continues to acknowledge that more work can be done in that regard, and she believes the NBA will be up to the task.
“I think there’s been incredible progress made. I look back on my career and there were very few women in sports in any capacity. I didn’t really think about it at the time because that’s just how it was. But I’ve noticed that there’s definitely been progress made within the entire sports industry. I think they still have a long way to go, but you see so many more women in media, coaches, front offices, etc. And the NBA is a big advocate of that. I think the NBA is one of the leaders of all the leagues in promoting that culture and they’re making progress.”
As a result of her diverse experience with the Nuggets, Johnson understands the importance of being flexible in one’s career, valuing each experience and opportunity to grow and maintaining that mindset of simply being the best.
Because of her success in the industry, Johnson appreciates the need to keep pushing the envelope in her daily work in order to continue setting up a path for young women looking to work in sports. It’s a role she doesn’t take lightly and urges other successful women in sports to do the same.
“Those of us that are fortunate enough to be in this industry and have lasted in this industry have to continue to set examples. We have to continue to work hard and be the examples for women coming up. That way, the women coming up through college can see that there are women who are successful in the business.”