Enjoying the Ride: Recent Graduate Achieves Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Niloo smiles at the camera in a blue shirt, standing in the college of law library

Each year, hundreds of students apply for the Wayne & Theresa Embry Fellowship, an opportunity for Canadian citizens “to gain firsthand experience in a professional basketball environment over the course of a full National Basketball Association (NBA) season” with the Toronto Raptors. Requiring a video submission as an application, the initial candidate pool is narrowed down, and only two winners are chosen, following an intense interview process. In 2023, Niloofar Abedzadeh L’23 was selected as one of the 2023-24 Wayne & Theresa Embry fellows.

Now, she works with the Toronto Raptors front office, focusing on salary cap strategy, scouting, and Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) analysis. She has also gained experience in each Raptors’ department, participating in practical work to better understand how everything is integrated and communicated between departments.

three photos in a montage, the first of Niloo in front of a Brooklyn New York Basketball sign, the second of her sitting on the court clapping, and the third of her standing between two reporters
Abedzadeh L’23 first externed with the Brooklyn Nets (left) before landing her Fellowship with the Toronto Raptors (center and right.)

A Unique Intersection

Born in Iran and raised in Toronto, ON, Abedzadeh began her law studies at the College of Law in 2020. It was not until her second year, however, that she realized she wanted to work in sports and entertainment law. As an active member of the Travis H.D. Lewin Advocacy Honor Society, Abedzadeh competed in various competitions, including the Tulane Professional Basketball Negotiation Competition (TPBNC), which focuses on player contract negotiation. With a pre-existing love for basketball, Abedzadeh was starting to see an opportunity to combine her strengths and passions. After meeting numerous NBA figures with law degrees at the TPBNC, she was exposed to the “unique intersection” of sports and law.

“That’s when I initially thought this could be a career,” Abedzadeh said. “I never thought there was room for me to work in basketball, but meeting the right people and being in the right spaces introduced me to a career in sports.”

After discovering the world of sports law, Abedzadeh pursued courses that complemented her new interest, with Professor Gregory L. Germain fueling her passion for contract law and inspiring Abedzadeh’s hobby of studying player contracts. She also worked with Professor Margaret M. Harding, who instilled attention to detail, and even advised Abedzadeh through a Syracuse Law Review paper that earned her a scholarship.

Alongside her classes, Abedzadeh worked with Lily Yan Hughes, Assistant Dean of Career Services and Student Experience, to participate in an externship with the Brooklyn Nets following her second year. Hughes connected Abedzadeh with Jeff Gewirtz, Executive VP of Business Affairs and Chief Legal Officer at BSE Global, the owners of the Nets. Gerwitz was the first person to give Abedzadeh an opportunity to work in sports and served as her mentor during her time with the Nets, providing her with a formal introduction to NBA and law through work with the legal and business departments of the Nets.

“Lily helped me with my application process for the Brooklyn Nets and without that externship, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Abedzadeh. “The Raptors understood that I had this experience, and I had the interest and the skill sets to work at a high level, so thank you to the College of Law for creating the opportunity to do that externship so I could be where I am now.”

headshot of Niloo smiling at the camera in front of a white background, wearing a basketball polo

Working in the NBA has been the perfect intersection of all the things I am passionate about. I am so grateful for the three years I spent at Syracuse.

Niloofar Abedzadeh L’23

Teamwork in the College of Law

As Abedzadeh’s graduation date approached, she discovered the application for the Wayne & Theresa Embry Fellowship. The program rotates two fellows through different departments in the Raptors organization, such as coaching, player development, team service, and the NBA draft, while they concentrate on an area of interest.

“This is definitely a unique path for someone with a law degree, so I was a little bit hesitant and I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing,” said Abedzadeh. “After speaking with Career Services, they saw my passion for professional sports and working in the NBA, so they told me to just go
for it.”

After realizing she needed a video for her application, Abedzadeh immediately contacted the Office of Career Services to assist in the production of her video and to guarantee it stood out, communicating the message she wanted. Working with Dafni Kiritsis, Director of Externships and Career Services, Abedzadeh was connected to the Syracuse Athletics department, who gave her access to the basketball court for various clips in her submission.

“The Career Services staff all played a role in getting my video out,” said Abedzadeh. “Dafni would always make herself available to speak with me and I found a lot of comfort in going to her, even if she was just encouraging me, being positive, or giving me that boost of confidence that I can go for it. It was challenging to even pursue this fellowship so having that access to her and being able to weigh all my options was huge.”

Looking back to when she began law school, Abedzadeh was filled with uncertainties about her career path. The Fellowship has solidified Abedzadeh’s passions for being a part of a team and being in the NBA, creating a well-rounded individual who has discovered her strengths across various realms.

“Working in the NBA has been the perfect intersection of all the things I am passionate about,” said Abedzadeh. “I am so grateful for the three years I spent at Syracuse and I hope that whatever is next for me, I can be my best self, continue to learn and inspire others along the way. I am certainly excited for what the future holds but most importantly, I try my best to be present in the moment and enjoy the ride.”