Home Region

Chicago, IL

Undergrad Education

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Management/Operations, 2013

Previous Experience

National Basketball Association

HBS Activities

Community Values Rep, African-American Student Union (AASU) co-president, 2019-20

“I discovered there was a business side to sports and a path to a career.”

Growing up on the west side of Chicago, Melcolm Ruffin was immersed in three things: "a loving family that nurtured me," an emphasis on education, and a passion for basketball.

"I loved sports and was a big basketball junkie," Melcolm says. "I played for hours; I watched for hours; I knew all the rosters, trades, and coaches. My brothers and uncle called me, 'The Walking ESPN'." When Melcolm attended high school, "I realized I wasn't going to make it as a player. But I discovered there was a business side to sports and a path to a career." Midway through his high school education, he came across an article in ESPN Magazine about sports management that listed specialty undergraduate programs.

Melcolm conducted his "own research and due diligence," selecting the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for his bachelor's in sports management. "It was definitely the right decision," he says. "UMass had a supportive ecosystem I wanted and needed." While there, Melcolm fulfilled two sports-related internships: a summer at Octagon sports agency, where he worked for agents representing NBA superstars like Steph Curry, and with the Philadelphia 76ers, supporting front office scouting and draft preparation.

Continuing a tradition of strong Black leadership

After graduation, Melcolm began a five-year tenure with the NBA League Headquarters in New York City, focusing largely on marketing and content creation. But both his college education and his NBA career offered him simultaneous introductions to HBS alumni – and powerful Black leadership.

In his second year at UMass, Melcolm attended an event featuring Dan Reed, then president of the NBA D-League (the basketball equivalent of baseball's minor leagues), a Black executive and an HBS alum. "He was graciously open to mentoring me," says Melcolm. "I relied on him for guidance in my early career and worked with him at the NBA. He was the first HBS MBA I met, and the first executive I became close to. This is when business school first crossed my mind."

At the NBA, Melcolm was influenced by two more Black HBS alumni, Malcolm Turner and Mark Tatum. Together with Malcolm, Melcolm worked on the NBA's innovative sponsorship agreement with Gatorade that rebranded the former D-League into the NBA G League it is today. In addition, Melcolm attended not one, but three African American Student Union (AASU) conferences at HBS. "It was a very inspirational experience to see incredible Black leaders speak to the community they've built here. They recharged me professionally. Every time I came, I felt more motivated. It helped me set goals and a trajectory beyond what I would've previously imagined." By the time Melcolm arrived on campus in 2018, he "felt I was already part of AASU," and he's been elected co-president for the 2019-20 term.

Melcolm plans on continuing his career in sports management, and for his summer internship he'll be with Twitter's Global Content Partnerships team focused on sports, news, and entertainment content deals. Meanwhile, he recognizes that within HBS, he has "come full circle – I'm now among the leaders of the organization that brought me to HBS. Being here is humbling; everyone is so accomplished and smart, yet entirely gracious and eager to build authentic relationships."