Ranking the NBA's 10 Most Popular Owners

Ehran Khan@@ekhansworldContributor IIISeptember 27, 2013

Ranking the NBA's 10 Most Popular Owners

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    Mark Cuban is one of the most high profile owners in all of pro sports.
    Mark Cuban is one of the most high profile owners in all of pro sports.Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    In the NBA, players get all the attention, and rightly so. After all, they are the reason we invest so much time and money into the game as fans.

    But we tend to ignore all the work going on behind the scenes, away from the basketball court.

    While the frenzy surrounding free agency, the draft and trade rumors shines a spotlight on general managers and other personnel executives, rarely do we pay any attention to the owners.

    For most franchises, success starts at the top. Having a good ownership group in place makes the job of everyone underneath them a little easier.

    So we're going to show a little love for the (super-rich and powerful) guys who really call the shots in this league.

    Here are the 10 most popular NBA owners.

10. Stan Kroenke, Denver Nuggets

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Stan Kroenke knows how to run professional sports franchises. 

    In addition to owning the Denver Nuggets, Kroenke is also the principal owner of the NFL's St. Louis Rams, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the Premier League's Arsenal—one of the biggest football (that's soccer for you NBA junkies with no time for other sports) clubs in the world.

    The Nuggets have been extremely successful during Kroenke's tenure. In his 13 years as owner, Denver has made it to the postseason 10 times—in a row no less, a streak which is still ongoing.

    They have enjoyed an incredible amount of organizational stability. Recent (and puzzling) front office overhaul notwithstanding, Denver stuck with George Karl as head coach for nearly a decade, even through his battles with cancer.

    It's that kind of stability that allowed the Nuggets to persevere through the Carmelo Anthony trade saga and actually prosper afterward.

9. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, Golden State Warriors

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    What a difference a year makes.

    After being lustily booed during a ceremony that was supposed to honor Chris Mullin, it seemed like the Joe Lacob-Peter Guber era was doomed to fail, just like the previous regime that mired Bay Area basketball fans in losing season after losing season.

    All of a sudden, everything that seemed wrong has turned out right.

    The decisions to trade fan-favorite (but analytics community-loathed) Monta Ellis for the oft-injured Andrew Bogut and hire zero-experience coach Mark Jackson went from being infuriating head-scratchers to shrewd gambits.

    Now the Warriors have one of the brightest futures of any team in the league and are set to move into a beautiful new facility on the other side of the bay in San Francisco.

    Golden State fans now have a reason to cheer the men responsible.

8. Peter Holt, San Antonio Spurs

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    According to HoopsHype, Peter Holt is one of just two NBA owners whose net worth is less than nine figures.

    That's OK, because the people of San Antonio are almost certainly always willing to pick up his check.

    You may never have heard of Peter Holt, but that's probably a good thing.

    It's important for owners to take a step back and let the basketball people take care of things. Especially when those basketball people are as brilliant as Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs brain trust.

    In Holt's 20-year reign, the Spurs have missed the postseason just once and have, of course, captured four titles, second-most of any franchise in that span.

7. Wycliffe Grousbeck, H. Irving Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, Boston Celtics

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    Darren McCollester/Getty Images

    Better known as Wyc, Irv and Pags, the ownership group of the Boston Celtics has overseen the evolution of one of the league's signature franchises.

    The Celtics foundered after the Larry Bird era, missing the playoffs seven times in eight years between 1994 and 2001, but have since turned it around thanks in large part to the new owners.

    Stability is again a key element in their managerial success. Danny Ainge has headed up the basketball operations staff since the their takeover in 2003, with Doc Rivers functioning as the coach for nine of the 11 seasons since.

    Nine playoff berths, two trips to the finals, and the 2008 NBA championship mark the successes this group has had so far.

    Major change is finally coming to Boston, but these three have the ability to handle it just fine.

6. Vivek Ranadive, Sacramento Kings

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Shaquille O'Neal has garnered recent headlines for becoming part of the ownership group in Sacramento that is spearheaded by Vivek Ranadive.

    Ranadive put together an offer to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle. The Kings haven't had success in a while, and Ranadive hasn't had an opportunity to change that yet, but saving basketball in Sacramento will keep your approval rating high for a long while.

    After being held hostage by the Maloofs for so long, the people of Sacramento will enjoy the honeymoon period with their new owner.

5. Robert Pera, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Robert Pera is another new member of the exclusive club of NBA owners, being at the helm of the Memphis Grizzlies for just one year.

    Pera is moving the Grizzlies progressively forward, taking an approach that leans heavily on advanced data and analytics.

    He hired former chief stathead at ESPN John Hollinger (is it just a coincidence that you can't spell Pera without PER?) to bring a more objective approach to evaluating talent, and the fruits of the strategy have come to bear.

    Memphis trading away franchise star Rudy Gay was the epitome of the new regime. Gay is perhaps the most polarizing player between analytics people and traditional basketball scouts.

    Viscerally, he looks magnificent, but the numbers fail to back that notion up. In the end, it was those numbers that made Gay expendable, and the Grizzlies thrived in his absence, winning a postseason series for the first time in the franchise's history and reaching the Western Conference Finals.

    In addition to the on-court success, the Grizzlies were just ranked as the No. 1 franchise in pro sports by ESPN. 

    Not a bad first year in charge for Mr. Pera.

4. Leslie Alexander, Houston Rockets

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Les Alexander is the other NBA owner—along with fellow Texan Peter Holt—with a net worth under nine figures. In fact, both men had the same debut season—1993-94.

    Alexander's reign started off with a bang, as the Rockets captured titles in his first two seasons as owner. They haven't reached those lofty heights since, but they have remained consistent and relevant for the past two decades.

    Once again, deferring to the basketball brain trust has been imperative to success in Houston.

    Alexander allowed Daryl Morey to fully execute his post McGrady-Yao era rebuilding project, a tricky scheme in which the Rockets found themselves consistently in NBA purgatory—neither qualifying for the postseason nor bottoming out and receiving a top draft choice.

    But after three straight seasons finishing ninth in the Western Conference, Morey's overhaul is complete. The Rockets are now equipped with two of the 10 best players on the planet in James Harden and Dwight Howard, meaning Alexander might not be that far away from his third championship ring.

3. Micky Arison, Miami Heat

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Micky Arison is the third-richest owner in the NBA, but you'd never guess it from his attitude.

    The laid-back cruise line mogul takes winning championships in stride. The Miami Heat have won three of those under his stewardship, in large part because Arison smartly hitched his basketball wagon to Pat Riley.

    Now he's got the best player in the world on his payroll, along with two elite running mates to keep the titles coming. 

    Arison can just sit back and enjoy the sunshine, along with the unyielding adoration of the fans he delivered three championships to.

2. Mikhail Prokhorov, Brooklyn Nets

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Many jokingly call him "The Russian Mark Cuban," but if we're talking about total net worth, Prokhorov rules the roost. 

    He's got the biggest bank account by a landslide among NBA owners, and he's not afraid to wield it.

    Even as the league's richest teams (i.e. the Lakers) are cutting back on spending in fear of looming luxury-tax penalties, Prokhorov and the Brooklyn Nets are brazenly splashing the cash.

    A $100 million payroll? Peanuts. How about $85 million in luxury tax payments? Yawn.

    First he moved the Nets from Jersey to Brooklyn, and now he's backing up the Brink's truck to hasten their road to a championship. 

    What's not to love from a fan's perspective? He even seems like the coolest guy in the world to spend a week with.

1. Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks

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    Danny Bollinger/Getty Images

    No owner has attracted more media attention than Mark Cuban.

    Cuban can always be spotted sitting a few rows up from the court, either shouting encouragement to his players or pejoratives at the referees.

    He's been fined more money than any other NBA owner, but even that does not deter him from speaking his mind publicly.

    You can't argue with his success, though. 

    Once the laughingstock of the league, the Dallas Mavericks reached the playoffs in their first 12 seasons under Cuban's watch before finishing in the lottery for the first time last year.

    The Mavs captured the 2011 NBA title, making Cuban one of just six active owners with a championship ring.

    Never shy about being in the spotlight (or beefing with Donald Trump on Twitter), Cuban will be the most prominent NBA owner for years to come.

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