Ran–guanosine triphosphatase orchestrates mitotic spindle assembly by modulation of the interaction between Importin-α/-β and spindle assembly factors (SAFs). The inhibition of SAFs performed by importins needs to be done without much sequestration from abundant nuclear localization signal (NLS) –containing proteins. However, the molecular mechanisms that determine NLS-binding selectivity and that inhibit activity of Importin-β–regulated SAFs (e.g., nuclear mitotic apparatus protein [NuMA]) remain undefined. Here, we present a crystal structure of the Importin-α–NuMA C terminus complex showing a novel binding pattern that accounts for selective NLS recognition. We demonstrate that, in the presence of Importin-α, Importin-β inhibits the microtubule-binding function of NuMA. Further, we have identified a high-affinity microtubule-binding region that lies carboxyl-terminal to the NLS, which is sterically masked by Importin-β on being bound by Importin-α. Our study provides mechanistic evidence of how Importin-α/-β regulates the NuMA functioning required for assembly of higher-order microtubule structures, further illuminating how Ran-governed transport factors regulate diverse SAFs and accommodate various cell demands.