Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-16-2020


Mentorship entails a special relationship between two people centered on personal or professional growth and development. An effective mentoring relationship is not always easy to acquire. A recent study out of Olivet Nazarene University (2019) suggested around 75 percent of professional men and women want a mentor, but around 37 percent actually have a person in their lives they considered a mentor. On a macro level, the National Mentoring Partnership (2014) estimated only around one-third of children and teenagers have a trusted individual outside their households they can turn to for guidance and support.

Considering the widespread application of mentoring in sport, professionals in the industry must have an understanding of mentoring and the mentoring process. Professional sports organizations such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) are trending toward younger performers. In February 2019, the NBA submitted a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association that will lower the draft age from 19 to 18 (USA Today, 2019). Several former NBA players have identified a need for mentorship with young athletes.

This qualitative narrative inquiry study explored the mentoring experiences of nine Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees. Guided by servant leadership theory, the study focused on how mentoring helped these accomplished individuals make it to the NBA and how mentoring in the NBA helped them achieve success as players. Sullivan (2019) pointed out that mentoring is a key tool used by servant leaders to influence followers and suggests that in order to reap maximum benefits from a mentor-mentee relationship, servant leadership qualities are necessary.

Criterion and snowball sampling techniques were used to select and recruit participants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to encourage participants to provide in-depth information on their mentoring experiences as mentees that may have led to their personal and professional success. The findings implicated that all nine participants received impactful mentoring during the course of their lives from a variety of mentors who exhibited a number of servant leadership qualities. Results suggested the mentoring received before reaching the NBA was most meaningful for the participants. A thematic analysis was conducted and several interactive and shared themes emerged that add to the existing body of knowledge in mentoring and sport leadership.


Mentoring, Servant Leadership

Document Type


Degree Name

Physical Education, Sports and Exercise Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Todd Seidler

Second Committee Member

Dr. David Scott

Third Committee Member

Dr. Wade Gilbert

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Douglas Thomas

Fifth Committee Member

Dr. Arlie Woodrum