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Nick Arison climbs ladder, named Heat CEO

ArisonsIssac Baldizon/Getty Images

On Friday, Heat owner Micky Arison gave his son Nick Arison (right) the keys to the Heat franchise by naming him CEO.

MIAMI – As he was accepting his Executive of the Year award in the spring, Heat President Pat Riley made sure to publicly thank Nick Arison, who he described as “my future boss.”

The future came soon. On Friday, the Heat formally announced that Arison, the 30-year-old son of Heat owner Micky Arison, had been promoted from a vice president under Riley in the basketball operations department to the team’s Chief Executive Officer. The younger Arison will now run the day-to-day operations of the franchise, a move that has been coming for some time. Riley is still the top decision-maker when it comes to the roster and the coaches. But at some point Arison will assume ownership of the team just as his dad did from his grandfather, Heat founder Ted Arison. If and when Riley decides to retire, Arison might end up being his replacement in the Heat's front office.

This may seem like an announcement intended for the small print in the daily transactions report. And, in fact, that’s where the Heat would prefer it. The team attempted to bury the news by issuing a Friday afternoon press release in the middle of vacation season during a lockout. But if you follow the NBA -- the fact that you clicked on this story being a prime indicator -- get to know the name Nick Arison. He’s on track to be one of the league’s power brokers.

There’s no doubt that Arison is benefitting from being the son of a billionaire but not at all in the obvious way. His ascension in the Heat organization has been a guarantee, but his preparation has been as intense as anyone in his age in the league. Although Arison hasn't had to interview and beat out other candidates for jobs, his résumé has been structured to learn the NBA from the bottom up.

He served as the team's towel and water boy as a teenager, as a manager for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and with Team USA, as a ticket and suite sales and worked in the community affairs department. He’s both mopped the floor at the arena and taken part in the free agent meetings last summer with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, whom he knew better than anyone with the Heat because he’d worked with Team USA for two Olympics and a World Championships.

Arison regularly attends practices and sits courtside, next to his father, for nearly every home game. He has a relationship with the players -- he’s their age -- and obviously is deeply involved in the team’s business operations. But much like his father, he seems to take great strides to stay out of the spotlight and avoids giving players the impression that he’s overbearing.

He’s far from the clichéd billionaire’s son despite his access to private jets, yachts and probably every club in Miami. At some point when he was growing up, he decided he wanted to run the Heat someday, rather than the largest cruise company in the world, which his father does. He’s been busy working toward it ever since and he’s just taken another step.

This will not be the last time you hear about him or his influence on one of the highest-profile sports teams in the world.