NBA players talk about the power of #LeanInTogether

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne sits down with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Facebook COO and founder of LeanIn.org Sheryl Sandberg to learn what it means for men to lean in and help support women in real life.

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MENLO PARK, New Jersey -- Adam Silver sat forward in his chair and felt a little uncomfortable being placed a few feet in front of Facebook COO and Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg for a joint interview to launch Year 2 of the NBA's partnership with the public service organization.

The seat placement was just a result of staging and lighting concerns, not preferential treatment, but Silver wanted to make sure.

Since taking over as NBA commissioner in 2014, he has been acutely aware of his league's place in the larger cultural conversation.

"One of our goals with the league is to show how multidimensional our players are," Silver said. "I thought at first that we'd need to go to them and it would have to be longer conversations and we'd say, 'This is why we're doing it.' But so much of the credit goes to Sheryl and her team. Just the name, Lean In. The players understood intuitively what we were talking about.

"It was sort of, 'Let's roll. I have a story to tell.' And it has so much to do with their mothers, their sisters, their daughters. It's because it's so genuine. These are the stories from their lives."

In the first year of the #LeanInTogether partnership, the goal was simply to make the point to men that they benefit from leaning in to support the women in their lives. This year, the aim is to give examples of how men can be supportive of women as fathers, sons and husbands, and in the workplace.

The league produced vignettes featuring Warriors forward Draymond Green and his mother, Mary Babers-Green; Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh supporting his wife, Adrienne, as she opens a boutique in Miami; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward discussing how important fatherhood is to him; and San Antonio Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich explaining why Becky Hammon has been successful as an assistant coach.

"There are incredible examples," said Sandberg, who also serves on the board of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN. "You've got Chris Bosh, star NBA player, talking about how he prioritizes helping at home because his wife runs a boutique and he wants her to be successful.

"You've got Becky Hammon saying she's achieved her position because the men around her -- from her father to her brother to her coach -- supported her in her ambitions.

I'm not here unless coach Pop sees me genderless. He sees me as a person that knows basketball.
Becky Hammon, on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich giving her the opportunity to coach

"We know more active fathers have greater job satisfaction at work. We know that more diverse teams outperform less diverse teams. You see that with Becky and the San Antonio Spurs. This is about what equality does for all of us, and these players are demonstrating it to us with their hearts."

Hammon is the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA.

"I'm not here unless coach Pop sees me genderless. He sees me as a person that knows basketball," Hammon said in her vignette.

Silver was with the Spurs when Hammon guided their summer league team to a title in Las Vegas this past summer.

"Unless people like Pop and [general manager] RC [Buford] are willing to step up and Lean In to give her an opportunity like that, she's never going to be able to break through and demonstrate that she has the talent to be a head coach in the NBA," Silver said.

Sandberg said she wouldn't have the career and family life she has without the support of men like her late husband, Dave Goldberg; her father; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; and former treasury secretary Larry Summers.

"Starting with my late husband, Dave, who was just the most supportive husband," Sandberg said. "My career was possible because of him.

"My father, who is still leaning in to support me and my children. Mark Zuckerberg, the person I've worked for the past eight years.

"It shows me what this campaign shows. There's no way I would be sitting here with the career and the family I have without the support of so many men."

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