When you’re a hip-hop mogul, you expect to have the Midas touch in terms of products you financially endorse. You become the face of the brand, and sales typically increase exponentially due to the loyalty of your fan base.
50 Cent and Vitamin Water or Diddy and Ciroc Ultra Premium vodka quickly come to mind.
Brooklyn-born rapper Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is no different. He was able to parlay a wildly successful music career into Rocawear clothing line, the 40/40 club franchise and most recently, the lifestyle website LifeandTimes.com.
According to the Forbes list highlighting hip-hop’s wealthiest, released in early March, Jay-Z has amassed a fortune in the $450 million range—second only to Diddy who cashes in at $475 million.
Losing millions as a result of a poor financial decision is seemingly no big deal to the filthy rich, but even Donald Trump will admit a botched deal is vexing no matter how minuscule the loss.
Six years ago, a new ownership group headed by real estate developer Bruce Ratner purchased the New Jersey Nets for $300 million. Intrigued by the prospect of moving the team to Brooklyn, Jay-Z invested a reported $4.5 million, becoming a minority stakeholder.
The Nets enjoyed moderate success under new ownership, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals in consecutive seasons. However, New Jersey has failed to make the playoffs since 2007 and hasn’t had a winning record since the 2005-06 campaign.
Is Jay-Z's ownership of the Nets a bad investment?
After compiling a 12-70 mark last year during one of the worst seasons in NBA history, the current Nets haven’t fared much better. Standing at 24-54 with four games to go, they are far from postseason contention.
Similar to the New York Knicks, Nets management has worked diligently to clear enough salary cap space to make room for one or two elite players and restore the team’s relevance. Considering Jay-Z’s close ties to LeBron James, many assumed New Jersey had the upper hand in the summer bidding war to land King James.
Having focused all efforts on LeBron, the Nets didn’t have a plan B when he announced his decision to take his talents to South Beach.
The Knicks pounced on the other top free agent in Amar’e Stoudemire, leaving the Nets out in the cold. He won’t ever reveal it, but Jay-Z was probably shocked that his celebrity wasn’t even enough to lure the league’s brightest star.
With all the folly surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s indecisiveness to sign a contract extension with the Denver Nuggets, Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov set his sights on a new target. By mid-winter, it appeared a move to acquire Anthony was practically set in stone, but Carmelo consistently expressed interest in the Knicks if Denver did indeed intend to trade him.
All of this mayhem culminated on February 20 during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles when Prokhorov and Jay-Z had a 40-minute sit-down with Anthony. The Nets owners hoped to entice Anthony with the notion that he could be a hometown hero while playing in a billion-dollar arena in the place he grew up.
Following the meeting, Anthony appeared indifferent to their persuasion tactics. 24 hours later, the announcement was made that the Knicks would be the beneficiary in a trade that would deliver Carmelo to New York. The Nets and their fans couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by a feeling of déjà vu.
With briefcases full of Benjamin's and seemingly nobody to blow them on, the unexpected transaction shipping Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams to the Nets was completed just prior to the trade deadline. To Williams’ dismay, he went from a team in the playoff hunt to one of the league’s bottom feeders.
Williams was clearly disappointed, given the fact that he received no apparent warning, but even worse, it was written all over his face that he did not want to be playing for New Jersey.
Any disgruntled professional athlete knows it is best to play along and say all the right things in such a situation, and this is exactly how Williams has responded.
It remains to be seen whether the Nets will convince Williams to sign an extension that would make him the face of the franchise and a championship building block in Brooklyn. If Williams opts to test the market and leaves, it will essentially be the Nets’ third blunder in as many tries.
Paul allegedly made a toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding, foreshadowing an alliance between him, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York. With Anthony already in the picture, Paul joining forces with the Knicks duo is closer to reality.
Howard, on the other hand, has publicly stated he’d like to stay in Orlando. Although he probably said otherwise behind closed doors, he’s obligated to say what Magic fans want to hear in the meantime.
Without Williams or Paul to team up with in Brooklyn, it’s utterly impossible to sell Howard on the idea. Minus Williams, the Nets’ best player is Brook Lopez, and he couldn’t even be used to bait Howard because he also mans the center position; they’d be swapped in the deal.
The hip-hop generation and the NBA are forever intertwined, but so far, Shawn Carter’s status as an iconic MC—one who many an athlete has idolized—has had no bearing on his ability to attract professional basketball’s cream of the crop.
That being said, perhaps the franchise he owns is simply that unappealing to potential suitors, and it’s going to take a lot more than a move to Brooklyn to create any buzz.
While it’s a bit of a hassle to back out of his arrangement with the Nets, it is always an option for Jay-Z to sell his share and reinvest in the team on the other side of the East River.
In 2009, New York Knicks owner and Cablevision CEO James Dolan announced the division of the Cablevision and MSG entities, which would both be traded separately in the public domain. Falling under the MSG umbrella, anyone can buy stock in the Knicks.
If Spike Lee hasn’t already gobbled up every single share, now is the opportune time for Jay-Z to ante a few million. Obviously, this new Knicks team is highly unproven, but a guaranteed playoff berth is a start.
An addition of a third superstar such as Chris Paul and perennial playoff appearances will heat this stock up, but the first championship in four decades would send it through the roof. With such a promising outlook, it’s a no-brainer.
I can hear the remix now:
If you’re havin’ money problems I feel bad for you son,
I got 99 problems but the Knicks ain’t one.