Chris Heck is leaving the 76ers.
The executive has spent the last nine seasons with the organization, serving as president of business operations since September 2017. He’ll remain on board through June.
“It’s time,” Heck said. “I’ve kind of done everything I set out to do except for maybe organize an [NBA championship] parade. I’m really happy with what we accomplished during the time period, but it’s on to the next chapter.”
Heck came to the Sixers with former CEO Scott O’Neil in 2013. O’Neil resigned last summer and was replaced by Tad Brown. Heck said it was his decision to leave, not the other way around.
“I made this decision back in February,” he said.
Heck later said that he had been talking to ownership for months about his decision to step down.
“I just want to do it the right way,” said Heck, 53. “I just want to make sure everything is buttoned up [before leaving].”
The final thing on his checklist is Tuesday’s special screening of the Netflix movie Hustle at the Philadelphia Film Center. The movie, featuring Adam Sandler, is about a down-on-his-luck basketball scout who discovers a player overseas and brings him to the United States without his team’s approval. Several Sixers appear in the movie.
“The last thing I wanted to do on my checklist is to have a movie made with the Sixers in a positive light,” Heck said, “and work for three years on the project.”
As president, Heck oversaw all of the team’s day-to-day operations on the business side. He served as the organization’s point of contact with basketball operations, the Wells Fargo Center, the NBA office, and the Sixers’ broadcast partners, NBC Sports Philadelphia and 97.5 The Fanatic.
Under his leadership, the Sixers sold out every game for the last five seasons. During that time, the team also increased its sponsorship growth by 30% annually. And with his foresight, the Sixers’ Twitter account has 2.1 million followers. They also have 3.4 million followers on Instagram, which outpaces the Eagles’ 2.2 million. The Sixers have over 13 million followers across all social media platforms.
Heck also created the Sixers’ ceremonial pregame “bell ringing” and postgame victory song at home games. In addition, he’s the president of the Sixers Youth Foundation and a board member for the Wilt Chamberlain Foundation, which sponsors scholarships and other causes that benefit youths in the Philadelphia area.
“It was a great run,” he said. “My kids are now growing up. Two are out of college and another is a senior in high school. It was just the right time [to resign]. The world of sports is changing, too.
“I’m excited about [it]. I don’t have another job, but I will start looking at the middle of the summer if not the end of the summer.”
Heck sees how Formula One racing, European soccer, Major League Soccer, and Major League Baseball are trying to add a different twist into marketing.
“So I’m really interested in being a part of something to do this thing all over again,” he said.
The Maryland native and 1992 Villanova graduate served as president of business operations for the New York Red Bulls (MLS) before joining the Sixers. Before that, Heck was the NBA’s senior vice president for marketing partners.
He also had senior positions with Villanova Sports Properties, the Miami Heat, and Eagles, and had a one-year stint with the Flyers.
But Heck has helped to accomplish a lot from a business aspect with the Sixers.
So what’s his proudest accomplishment?
“The business side of me is going to say we took a $300 million franchise and made it $2.7 billion in worth over a nine-year period, which has never been done in history,” he said. “But on the practical side, just seeing kids everywhere I go wearing Sixers stuff.
“I think we were part of this movement that was started by the fans and we put the foot on the gas. So that movement altered a generation or generations. That is everything from 35-year-olds and under, where this became their team. And that did not exist before.”