When Michael Jordan agreed to purchase the Charlotte Bobcats in late February, he became the first player to own a majority stake in an NBA franchise. David Stern said he expects the other owners to approve the former Bulls star before the end of March.
Jordan's bid to take the team’s reigns from BET founder Robert Johnson raises an interesting question: Why haven’t more former players expressed interest in NBA ownership?
For most of pro basketball’s existence, hoops bosses have allowed front-office chiefs to handle roster decisions and execute trades. Those hardwood CEOs succeeded by staying out of the way.
Then, Mark Cuban, a Dallas Mavericks season-ticket holder and convenient billionaire, decided he did not like where the team was headed under Ross Perot’s negligent stewardship, and bought it.
The charismatic business mogul does not boast athleticism or any commendable basketball skills, but he has redefined ownership in the sport. An owner can do more than just write checks and chaperon the team’s budget.
With too many fraudulent cheapskates helming deplorable franchises, maybe it’s time for players to follow Cuban and Jordan.
When Cuban meddles too much in the Mavericks’ affairs he angers everyone from Stern to All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. His incessant griping about players he deems dirty and questionable calls irks the commissioner.
The pluses since he entered the cockpit 10 years ago are undeniable, though. Dallas, a perennial loser in the '90s competing to avoid last place, has become a consistent 50-game winner and a finalist. The Mavs’ boast a much-improved home-court advantage and occupy more real estate in the sports sections of the local papers. Anyone from North Texas knows how hard it is to displace or upstage the Cowboys on the front page.
A player might not know as much about stocks and business fundamentals as the CEO of a major corporation, but he has more of a reason to care about the on-court product.
The current collective bargaining agreement allows L.A. Clippers boss Donald Sterling to collect a few million extra each year if his payroll does not exceed the luxury tax. He also cashes in on the size and prominence of his market. Sports squads in Hollywood score the kinds of lucrative radio and TV deals teams in smaller metros will never sniff.
So, Sterling can turn a profit even if his team loses 60 games. When the NBA and player’s union leadership sit down to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, this travesty should rank high on the list of necessary fixes.
Star players have often failed in front office and coaching posts because they lack the proper appreciation for the game’s nuances. As such, they overvalue spot-minutes players and overpay cancerous scrubs.
Case in point: Isiah Thomas, a beloved, tough-nosed small guard whose transitions to the desk and bench proved disastrous.
Kevin McHale failed to field a championship squad in the 12 years he employed future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett. The chippy, furious, and defensive-minded forward showed as a Celtic he could win a title if provided the right supporting cast.
Ownership is a different animal, and maybe some current and former players could tame the beast. For every Jerry Buss, there is a disengaged slouch content with losing so long as his pockets and wallet remain pleasantly plump.
Here are 10 players who should open up their checkbooks and put the aforementioned crackerjacks out of their misery.
I excluded David Robinson and Magic Johnson because both own stakes in the Spurs and Lakers, respectively. How did I select my choices?
A competent boss must demonstrate the ability to exercise fiscal restraint. Keep dreaming, Charles Barkley.
Entertainment value is a plus, but a player who loves the deep end could not be trusted to make sound decisions. Back off, Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman.
An owner should also avoid needless gut reactions, especially when they involve demeaning folks within the organization. Kobe Bryant will retire as one of the greatest to ever play, but he should steer clear of management when he hangs up the sneakers.
Here’s the list.