Arnold Abraham Heft was born on Lombard Street in Baltimore and moved to Washington with his family in 1925. The son of Harry and Rose Heft, Russian immigrants who owned and operated a kosher butcher shop in Washington DC. Heft was a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles and several minor league teams.
After serving with the Navy during World War II, Heft went to work as a referee for the Basketball Association of America, which became the National Basketball Association in 1949. He retired from officiating in 1961. From 1964 to 1968, he co-owned the Baltimore Bullets with Abe Pollin, to whom he later sold his interest along with a third partner, Earl Foreman, for $1.8 million. He had also been a part owner of the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland.