Who are the NBA Owners and how did they come to power?


Estimated Reading Time: 13 minutes

We love our NBA basketball here at basketball noise and it is always interesting to understand what is going on behind scenes of each NBA franchise why do some franchises do well and others seem to be in complete chaos. This is usually due to the management of each franchise by its owner.

Who are the NBA Owners and how did they come to power? There are thirty owners for thirty teams in the NBA. Each owner has purchased their franchise at a different time and for a different value. We have complied a table below of all the franchise owners, the price they paid and how many championships have been won during their tenure.

TeamOwner Price
paid
for
franchise ($)
How
long
they
have
been
an
owner
Championships
in Owners
Tenure
Atlanta
Hawks
Tony
Ressler
850m20150
Boston CelticsWyc
Grousbeck
360m20021
Brookyln NetsJoseph Tsal3.3bn20190
Charlotte HornetsMichael
Jordan
$280m20100
Chicago BullsJerry
Reinsdorf
$9.2m19856
Cleveland Cavaliers Dan Gilbert$335m20051
Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban $285m20001
Denver NuggetsAnn Walton Kroenke$450m20000
Detroit PistonsTom Gores$325m20110
Golden State Warriors Joe Lacob$450m20103
Houston RocketsTilman
Fertitta
$2.2bn20170
Indiana PacersHerbert
Simon
$10.5m 19830
Los Angeles ClippersSteve
Balmer
$2bn20140
Memphis GrizzliesRobert J. Pera$350m20120
Miami HeatMicky
Arison
$33m19883
Milwaukee BucksMarc Larsy$550m20140
New Orleans PelicansGayle
Benson
$338m20120
New York KnicksJames DolanN/A19970
Oklahoma City ThunderClay Bennett$350m20060
Orlando MagicDan DeVos$85m20180
Philadelphia 76ersJoshua
Harris
$320m20110
Phoenix SunsRobert
Sarver
$401m20040
Portland Trail BlazersJody Allen$70m19880
Sacramento KingsVivek
Ranadive
$535m20130
San Antonio SpursPeter Holt$75m19935
Toronto RaptorsLarry
Tanenbaum
Inception 19981
Utah JazzGail Miller$27.2m19850
Washington Wizards Ted Leonsis$170m2010 0

Below we have compiled a scatter chart of the cost of the NBA franchise and the year in which it was purchased. As you can see from the chart below, the closer to 2019, the more money which has been paid by the NBA teams with a greater differential between price.

Between 1983 and 1999, NBA franchises were purchased for a similar price. Between 2000 and 2014 the NBA franchises were again purchased in a similar of range. It was in 2015 were there was an explosion in cost of an NBA Franchise, with three of the most recent franchises purchased for over a billion pounds each.

The reason why there has been an explosion in the valuations of NBA franchises is due to the scale of which the NBA. The NBA hosted its first game in India this year, which means there is a new market which each franchise could expand into.

We have complied the history of how each owner came to own their NBA Franchise. We have also given a brief summary of how each team has performed during the NBA owners tenure.

Atlanta Hawks – Tony Ressler

Tony Ressler became the owner of Atlanta Hawks in 2015. The Atlanta Hawks were purchased on the condition that the team would not be relocated following the sale. Although Ressler is the main investor there are additional investors in the Hawks such as ex NBA player Grant Hill. The Atlanta Hawks were purchased for $850 million on 22 April 2015.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Tony Ressler became an owner following previous owner Bruce Levenson self-reporting himself to the NBA for sending an email discussing the African American fans of the Atlanta Hawks. Following this Leverson initiated a sale of the Hawks and Ressler won the battle to acquire the Atlanta Hawks.

Boston Celtics – Wyc Grousbeck

Wyc Grousbeck became the owner of the Boston Celtics in 2002. Wyc brought in Doc Rivers as Coach and in 2007 brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to make the big three along with Paul Pierce who was already at the Celtics. This led to the Celtics winning and NBA Championship in 2007-08 season. 

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Paul Gaston the previous owner sold the Celtics which his father had bought in 1984. Gaston had been absent for most of his time at the helm as owner of the Celtics. Wyc and his father purchased the Celtics.

Brooklyn Nets – Joseph Tsal

Joseph Tsal became the owner of the Brooklyn Nets in September 2019. Due to Joseph just taking over there isn’t to much to write about what he has done for the Nets so far. However, Joseph has many sports teams and with the acquisition of Kevin Durant and Kryie Irving we are expecting big things.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Mikhail Prokhorov was the owner of the Brooklyn Nets however, in 2017 he sold 47% of the Nets to Joseph Tsal, with an option to buy the remaining part of his stake. Joseph took this option in 2019 and purchased the remaining stake from Prokhorov. The total cost for the Brooklyn Nets was $2.3bn.

Charlotte Hornets – Michael Jordan

The G.O.A.T is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets. Although so far Michael Jordan has not managed to transfer his skills of obtaining championships on the court to acquiring championships as an owner. However, Jordan did buy the team when they were known as the Charlotte Bobcats and Jordan was prudent to return the name back to Charlotte Hornets in 2014.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Robert L Johnson has been the first African American to own a major sports league team when he purchased the Charlotte Hornets in 2002. However, in 2010 the majority was sold to Michael Jordan who is a native of North Carolina where the Charlotte Hornets are located.

Chicago Bulls – Jerry Reinsdorf

It is arguable that the Chicago Bulls is the greatest NBA franchise of the most recent feature. As a kid of the 90’s who doesn’t remember Michael Jordan and his two three-peat championships. However, the last Bulls championship was over twenty years ago. Jerry Reinsdorf is a maverick owner, he turned the Chicago Bulls in to a global brand and one point the Bulls had an 8,000 person waiting list for a season ticket.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Jerry Reinsdorf purchased the Chicago Bulls as part of a syndicate in 1985.Within 1985 Reinsdorf acquired all the remaining ownership stakes of all the other members of the syndicate and became the sole owner.

Cleveland Cavaliers – Dan Gilbert

Dan Gilbert ended the Cleveland Cavaliers 52-year hunt for an NBA championship. Although his tenure has not been without controversy. When Lebron James left for Miami Heat in 2010,  Gilbert wrote a letter condemning how James announced his decision and Gilbert was then fined $100,000 by the NBA. All was forgiven a few years later and James returned to who helped Cleveland obtain their first championship.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Gordon Gund sold his majority ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers into Dan Gilbert in 2005. Gund is still a majority owner however, it is Dan Gilbert who is principal owner.

Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban maybe known for his role in Shark Tank however, he is a shrewd businessman who once becoming owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He increased the fan base and is a fan favourite, at this current time Cuban has had to pay fines of over $3million to the NBA. However, this has given Cuban and the Mavericks an unprecedented amount of publicity.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Mark Cuban purchased the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 for $285 million. He had been a season ticket holder and purchased the Mavericks from Ross Perot.

Mark Cuban explains below how he did not buy the Dallas Mavericks as an investment but as a passion.

Denver Nuggets – Ann Walton Kroenke

Stan Kroenke is the owner of Arsenal Football club (as a Chelsea fan I would like to add there is only one London football club to have won the Champions League) as well as other sports team. Although Kroenke purchased the team in 2000 the Nuggets are held in a trust and the owner is Stan Kroenke’s wife Ann Walton Kroenke.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Following years of instability in terms of ownership for the Nuggets, Kroenke purchased the Nuggets along with the Denver Avalanches for $450m.

Detroit Pistons – Tom Gores

Tom Gores made his money in his private equity firm. However, in 2011 he purchased the Detroit Pistons from Karen Davidson. Gores has a close relationship with the Detroit Pistons players. Gores has also introduced programs such as seats for soldiers which gives free seats to serving soldiers.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

The previous owner of the Detroit Pistons Bill Davidson had passed away and his widow sold the franchise to Tom Gores for $325 million. Given the time when Gores purchased the Pistons it seems that he grabbed himself a bargain.

Golden State Warriors – Joe Lacob

Joe Lacob made his money through venture capitalism, picking up businesses just at the right time and developing them. It is safe to say that Lacob bought the Golden State Warriors at the right time. Since 2010 the Warriors have developed into a dominant force winning three NBA championships and being runner up twice.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Chris Cohan had owned the Golden State Warriors since 1994 however, the Warriors had only had two winning seasons during that time. Cohan sold the main stake of the franchise to Joe Lacob in July 2010. There are other minority owners of the Golden State Warriors however, as Joe Lacob holds the majority stake we have put him as the main owner.

Houston Rockets – Tilman Fertitta

Tilman Fertitta is probably someone who unintentionally had a massive impact on the NBA. One tweet about Hong Kong has meant that the NBA has lost a lot of money in the form of sponsorship from China. For the Rockets, Fertitta has traded away Chris Paul and draft picks for Russell Westbrook , to reunite him with former team mate James Harden.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Tilman Fertitta already owned the Houston Astros and Texans. When the Houston Rockets were put up for sale Tilman obtained money through selling bonds in order to bolster his purchasing power.

Indiana Pacers – Herbert Simon

The Indiana Pacers have had many transitions since Herbert Simon took over. Although, the Pacers have made it to the NBA finals a Championship has been elusive. There have been great moments for the Pacers, such as the rivalries with the Knicks. There has been some not so good moments, such as the Malice at the Palace.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Herbert Simon became the owner of the Indiana Pacers with his brother Mel. However, Mel passed away in 2009 and therefore, Herbert is the sole owner. The Pacers were purchased for $10.5 million.

Los Angeles Clippers – Steve Ballmer

In 2019, the Clippers signed Paul George and Kwahi Leonard after years of being knocked out first round of the playoffs. It is obvious the clippers want a championship.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

The previous LA Clippers owner Donald Stirling had been recorded being racist about any individual dating his ex-wife. The NBA were swift to move and gave Donald Stirling a lifetime ban, and was forced to sell the LA Clippers. Steve Ballmer who used to be CEO of Microsoft purchased the LA Clippers for $2.2 billion.

Memphis Grizzlies – Robert Pera

Pera has made significant investment in the Grizzlies and this been rewarded with making the playoffs and getting more playoff wins in the two years of Pera’s ownership then the previous 17 years of the franchise.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

In 2006 Michael Heisley tried selling the Memphis Grizzlies however, no one met the $300 million asking price. In 2012, the Memphis Grizzlies were sold to a consortium led by Robert Pera for a consideration of $350 million.

Miami Heat – Micky Arison

Since Arison took over as owner of the Miami Heat, the Heat have won three NBA Championships. The first was in the 2005-2006 season. The Heat then acquired Lebron James to make the big three of Lebron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. These brought two back to back championships to the Heat.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Arison purchased the Miami Heat in 1995 following a legal battle to acquire the team. Arison had been accused by Whit Hudson that Arison had sabotaged his purchase of the Miami Heat.

Milwaukee Bucks – Marc Larsy

The Bucks have changed since Marcy Larsy has taken over that is mainly due to Giannis Antekounmpo who has been a dominant forces for the Bucks. The Bucks made it to the conference finals in 2018-19 season however, they lost to the eventual championship winners the Toronto Raptors.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Mark Larsy and Wes Ednes purchased the Bucks from Herb Kohl, on the condition that they would keep the team in Milwaukee. The team was purchased for $350 million.

New Orleans Pelicans – Gayle Benson

The Pelicans are an up and coming team, the acquisition of Zion Williams in the draft as well as brining Lonzo Ball in from the La Lakers maybe a prudent move and may see the Pelicans be Championship contenders. This came at the cost of losing Anthony Davis to the LA Lakers but could be a kick starter for the franchise.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

In 2012, Tom Benson purchased the New Orleans Pelicans and New Orleans Saints for $338 million. However, Tom Benson died in 2018 and his estate was passed to his wife Gayle Benson however, this was contested by Tom Bensons children.

New York Knicks – James Dolan

The New York Knicks gross the most money in the NBA however, they are unable to make the playoffs or put a decent team on the floor., A lot of this is blamed on James Dolan who is reported to make bade decisions. Whatever the case, it is immensely sad that a franchise of this size can’t put together a championship run.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

James Dolan is the CEO of MSG which owns the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers. The Madison Square Garden Company was spun off Cablevisiion which owned the Knicks and Rangers. James Dolan was appointed as the CEO.

Oklahoma City Thunder – Clay Bennett

Within two years of taking over the team the Seattle Supersonics were moved to Oklahoma and renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder drafter James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook however, they were unable to keep them.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Howard Schultz, the guy who owns Starbucks, sold the Seattle Supersonics to Clay Bennett for $350m in 2006. This was based on a good faith agreement that the team would be kept in Seattle.

Orlando Magic – Danny Devos

There has been significant transition since the Devos family took over Orlando Magic. The Magic have had superstar power over the years with Shaq, Tim Hardaway, Tracey McGrady and Dwight Howard all playing for the Orlando Magic. However, an NBA Championship has never materialised.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Danny Devos father, Rich Devos purchased the Orlando Magic in 1991 for $85 million. Upon his death the Orlando Magic was passed to Danny Devos.

Philadelphia 76ers – Joshua Harris

Every remembers Allen Iverson going toe to toe with Kobe and Shaq. However, in recent times the 76ers have been in a rebuild mode. The 76ers now have Joel Embid and Ben Simmons and it looks like under Joshua Harris stewardship the 76ers can go on a real playoff run.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Joshua Harris purchased the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011 for $320 million.

Phoenix Suns – Robert Sarver

The Suns have had success under the ownership of Robert Sarver. The Suns made the Western Conference final were they lost against the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. The Suns also made Steve Kerr their general manager however, over time the Suns have declined from the force they once were in the early 2000’s.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Robert Sarver purchased the Phoenix Suns from Jerry Colangelo in 2004. Sarver had been looking for a team and Steve Kerr, helped him find a team which was for sale.

Portland Trail Blazers – Jody Allen

Since Jody has taken over the Blazers made the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors. If Jody Allen can provide stability to the franchise than Portland could be a regular franchise team.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

As a co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen was the youngest owner of an NBA team when he purchased the Portland Trail Blazers in 1988 for $70m. In 2018, Paul passed away and his estate was transferred to his sister Jody Allen who is now in charge of the Portland Trailblazers.

Sacramento Kings – Vivek Ranadive

Ranadive has made some significant changes since he has been in charge of the Kings. He encouraged a style of play whereby one player of the team always stays on offence. He has also moved the Kings to a new arena.

How did they become an NBA owner?

Ranadive actually co-owned the Golden State Warriors however, the Maloof family had announced they were going to sell the Sacramento Kings. Ranadive sold his share in the Golden State Warriors and purchased the Sacramento Kings.

San Antonio Spurs – Peter Holt

San Antonio have had a very successful time under the stewardship of Peter Holt. In 1996 Greg Popovich took over as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Since then the Spurs have won five NBA Championships, Six Conference Titles and 13 Divisional titles.

How did they become an NBA owner?

Red McCombs was selling the San Antonio Spurs in 1993. Peter Holt led a consortium of buyers to purchase the San Antonio Spurs for $75 million  

Toronto Raptors – Larry Tanenbuam

The Raptors as a relevant newbie to the NBA. However, they won their first NBA Championship in the 2018-19 which is a great a achievement for a franchise which has not been established for as long as other NBA franchises.              

How did they become an NBA team owner?

The Toronto Raptors only became a franchise in the mid-nineties, after years of trying to join the NBA. This was completed through companies which hold different amounts of Toronto Raptors. Larry Tanenbaum is the Chairman and holds 25% of the Raptors.

Utah Jazz – Gail Miller

The Utah Jazz came to prominence ion the 1990’s where they won two conference titles. The partnership of John Stockton and Karl Malone pushed the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals. However, in their way was Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Unfortunately for the Utah Jazz, The Chicago Bulls thwarted their attempts to gain an NBA championship. After these appearances the Utah Jazz has not been the same since.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Gail Miller was married to Larry Miller who had purchased the Utah Jazz in 1985 for $27.2 million. However, Larry passed away in 2009 therefore, the estate of Larry, including the Utah Jazz, came into the ownership of Gail Miller.

Washington Wizards – Ted Leonsis

Ted Leonsis came into a team at a rock bottom. Leonsis adopted a strategy of listening to the fans whereby the fans can contact him by email with their concerns. Leonsis changed the Wizards kit back to its red, white and blue colours. The Wizards have had a new practice facility opened under Leonsis and a new youthful team has slowly been developed through draft picks.

How did they become an NBA team owner?

Ted Leonsis became an NBA owner in June 2010 following the death of Abe Pollin. He also purchased the Washington Capitals and Mystics from the Pollin family. Leonsis paid $170 million for the remaining 55% of the Washington Wizards he didn’t own as a minority owner.

NBA Owner Stats

There are interesting stats for the NBA Owners and we have listed this statistics below.

Stat Answer Team

Longest Ownership Tenure
Simon
Herbert
Indiana
Pacers
Longest Ownership Tenure without a Championship Simon
Herbert
Indiana
Pacers
Ownership Tenure with most Championship Jerry Reinsdorf Chicago Bulls
Shortest amount of time from start of ownership to first championship of tenure 4 Years Golden
State
Warriors

James

A basketball court was built in my local park and at 15 years of age I fell in love with basketball. A late joiner to the game, I have played every season since. Some Indiana friends bought me some Pacers gear for my 17th birthday, and I have supported them ever since (who wants to follow the crowd). I love American sports apparel and the presentation of sports, they do it so well (bar all the advert breaks).

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