Michele A. Roberts, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, is the first woman to lead a players union across the four major American sports. Ms. Roberts brings a wealth of legal experience to the job along with a no-nonsense style when working on behalf of the players she represents.
Raised in a South Bronx housing project, Roberts told USA Today that her two older brothers helped her become basketball fans. Roberts entered Wesleyan University for her undergraduate studies, graduating in 1977.
After earning her law degree at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, Roberts’ legal career began in 1980 in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a Public Defender Service. By the time she left eight years later, she was the head of the division.
Roberts worked for major law firm Akin Gump in 2004, earning a reputation as a savvy and talented trial lawyer. In 2011, she joined the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom. In 2014, the NBPA ousted former president Billy Hunter for incompetence and voted Roberts in by a count of 32 votes out of 36.
In her short tenure, Roberts has caught the attention of the league by advocating for fair compensation for players and openly challenging NBA owners. Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver have routinely squared off in the media about rules regarding salary caps and other financial matters.
Roberts is an adjunct faculty member at Harvard Law School, and a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. She names Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree Jr. as a mentor.