Bill Cameron has always acknowledged that the canvas of life he's received to paint has been wide and smooth.
As the CEO of the third-generation, family-owned American Fidelity Assurance Company, his future in the insurance and financial services industry was all but a foregone conclusion from the time he was young. But from the vantage point at the top of one of Oklahoma's most well-respected - and nationally recognized - companies, Cameron has continued to branch out.
As co-owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team and the Tulsa Talons Arena Football League franchise, Cameron is pursuing his personal passion once again, bringing the WNBA Shock franchise to Tulsa with partner David Box.
From a business standpoint, the move makes sense. Attempting to capitalize on Oklahoma's newfound love for all things associated with professional hoops seems to be a shrewd move. With the Thunder selling out dates and making the playoffs while playing in Ford Center in Oklahoma City, showcasing the women's version of the game just up the turnpike in Bank of Oklahoma Center just might prove a moneymaker, as well.
But spend some time talking with Cameron, and you'll quickly see the business side of it all melt by the wayside. He's in this deal for all the right reasons: family, fans and a passion for women's basketball.
"I realized the athleticism and, frankly, felt like there was an opportunity that that athleticism and effort deserves to be recognized," says Cameron, who has two daughters who have played basketball for much of their life. "The girls playing basketball in the state deserve to see the highest-caliber players in the world playing the game that they play."
It's also one of the reasons he is heavily involved in the development side of things. His hope is to bring affordable training programs to young athletes across the state to help them reach the next level.
Cameron says the closest he came to becoming a high-caliber athlete was when he laced up his track shoes for Casady High School. He admits to warming more than a few benches along the way, but says having resources for development and pro sports franchises all over Oklahoma can only help other wannabes in the future.
"I think it's good when you're growing up to have heroes to look up to," he says. "It's an opportunity to showcase the best in the world here in Oklahoma." Shock treatment
That's one of the reasons Box partnered with Cameron with the Tulsa Talons and now the WNBA.
"Bill's a real high-level thinker," says Box, the owner of Box Talent Agency. "He thinks of solutions that most people wouldn't think about. He never seems rattled, and I think he just has a lot of experience. He just comes up with ideas you wouldn't think about."
Cameron says the same is true for his partner, whom he expects to be pivotal when it comes to rolling an untested WNBA product out on the floor later this year.
"People have never bought a ticket to see an insurance agent," Cameron says with a laugh. "We've both been captured by the passion and potential of the team and the league. It's so much fun learning from David and the professional game operations in the WNBA about how to put on a really first-rate event."
If the Shock has even half as much success as Cameron's associates at American Fidelity, the whole deal will be a success. As the fifth-largest private, family-owned life and health insurance company in the U.S., American Fidelity has been ranked among Fortune magazine's Top 100 companies to work for in each of the last seven years.
"I can't tell you how fortunate I feel to be associated with all the people with American Fidelity and the other businesses in our family group. There's nothing like being on a team with a great group of passionate people that are caring about customers and the job they do," he says. "It's a huge honor to be associated with them."
Cameron's work with American Fidelity has always been an exercise in excellence. With the Thunder's second season, that success bled into the sports world.
How he and Box approach the relocation of the Shock from its former home in Detroit will be scrutinized across the country. The move occurs at a crucial juncture for the WNBA, which has seen six teams go out of operation in its 12-season existence. Two teams have gone belly-up over the last two seasons, and the league recently voted to lower each team's salary cap.
But that's all the business side.
For Cameron, it's simply another opportunity to paint.