AMA: Evelyn Magley, The Basketball League CEO

Evelyn Magley became the first woman to own a men’s sports league when she and her husband, David Magley, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball 1981, created the basketball league, now in its sixth season and with more than 50 teams across the country.
A woman in a blue dress smiles as she stands against a gray background.
Photography by Jay Goldz

You moved here from Kansas in 2015. How do you like living and working in Indy?
I love it. It feels familiar in that Midwestern and family-oriented way. At the same time, we have the best airport and restaurants, which is why we attract so many international events to our city.

What made you choose Indianapolis to set up TBL?
Indiana is a basketball mecca. Of the 15 largest high school gyms in the world, 14 are in Indiana. It is truly the perfect headquarters because of the potential for expansion here in the state alone.

How would you describe TBL to someone who’s never heard of it?
A divine vision that makes the beautiful game of basketball a conduit for spreading love within communities. My objective is to generate opportunities for marginalized individuals and cultivate an environment of empowerment while investing in the development of the communities and young men associated with our teams. We positively impact their lives off the court by offering life skills and financial literacy classes.

On a scale of one to 10, rate TBL’s past season, which ends this month.
I’d give this season a solid seven. It’s been an engaging season with competitive matchups. The league has grown its fan base and improved its visibility through marketing. However, there have been some challenges affecting team performance and occasional issues with officiating consistency.

What does it mean to you to own a men’s professional sports league?
It is an immense honor and a significant milestone. It represents breaking barriers and shattering stereotypes, not just for me but for all women and minorities who aspire to leadership roles in sports and beyond.

What’s your ultimate goal with this league?
Every decision we make, whether it’s player recruitment or marketing strategies, is driven by our commitment to community empowerment and enrichment. The aim is for each team to be a valuable community asset, fostering economic growth and bringing with it a multitude of opportunities for everyone involved.

Your Indiana teams play In Lebanon, Kokomo, and Medora. It sounds like TBL Is for the benefit of not only the players but also those fans and those communities.
Yes, all three. We strive to create an ecosystem where players thrive on and off the court, fans experience the excitement of the game, and communities get a positive impact.

Every team tries to create a connection between the players and the fans. How are your efforts unique?
Our approach is characterized by its granularity and grassroots focus. We ensure our players are deeply engaged with various stakeholders such as nonprofits, youth organizations, schools, corporations, religious institutions, and community events. Additionally, we leverage advanced technology through our partnerships to actively engage fans during live games, ensuring the next generation remains connected at games.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
Balancing the various interests and needs of our stakeholders. From players and coaches to fans and community partners, each group has its own priorities and expectations. Finding the right balance to ensure the league thrives both competitively and commercially while also making a positive impact in our communities requires careful navigation and strategic decision-making. Additionally, maintaining financial stability and growth in a competitive sports landscape is an ongoing challenge.

Three TBL players—Sam Daniel, Kylor Kelley, and Lindy Waters III—were picked up by the NBA. Where do your players come from?
We have a draft. They come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Many have professional basketball experience, either domestically or internationally, while others come from collegiate programs. Some transition from unrelated careers.

What has it been like working alongside your legendary Indiana hoopster husband?
Collaborating … has been an immensely fulfilling journey. It’s a unique opportunity to blend our mutual love for the game. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How would you describe yourself as a boss?
I strive to be fair, supportive, and transparent. I believe in fostering a collaborative environment where everyone’s ideas are valued, and open communication is encouraged. I try to lead by example.

Do you have a favorite basketball movie?
I’m glad you asked! The 1991 film about basketball great Pete Maravich, The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend, resonates with me. It’s a powerful story of determination and perseverance. As someone passionate about sports and the human spirit, I find inspiration in such narratives. It beautifully captures the essence of basketball as more than a game but also as a vehicle for growth.