This is not the list you want people talking about as the NBA season starts to die.
A dozen NBA owners, including its newest one, are among the richest Americans on the Forbes 400 List.
No. 23 Paul Allen, Portland Trail Blazers, $13.2 billion
No. 60 Richard DeVos, Orlando Magic, $5 billion
No. 75 Mickey Arison, Miami Heat, $4.2 billion
No. 107 Stan Kroenke, Denver Nuggets, $3.2 billion
No. 159 Tom Gores, Detroit Pistons, $2.5 billion
N0. 171 Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks, $2.3 billion
No. 242 Glen Taylor, Minnesota Timberwolves, $1.8 billion
No. 273, Herb Simon, Indiana Pacers, $1.6 billion
No. 293, Dan Gilbert, Cleveland Cavaliers, $1.5 billion
No. 293, Michael Heisley, Memphis Grizzlies, $1.5 billion
No. 293, Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers, $1.5 billion
No. 309, Joshua Harris., Philadelphia 76ers, $1.45 billion
There are minority owners that made the list, like Patrick Soon-Shiong of the Lakers ($7 billion).
I know personal wealth has nothing to with an NBA team’s viability or ability to turn a profit. But these guys are clearly doing pretty well. So here’s why it matters.
1: Perception is reality
NBA owners are locking the players out. They’re the ones complaining about money. So seeing almost half them on the list of the richest people in America is a little off-putting. To hear billionaires complain about one tentacle of their empires not quite raking it in draws eye rolls. So a list of your owners, some of them the most vocal hawks in this thing, among the richest people doesn’t help your cause in the court of public opinion.
2: Everything can’t work out
These guys didn’t get billions of dollars because of their boyish good looks and winning smiles. They generally own multiple businesses or business with multiple divisions. Do they all always make money? Dan Gilbert, the guy who mouthed off on Twitter and got everyone all up in arms, has a bunch of different ventures (Quicken Loans, a Detroit tech initiative, casinos in Ohio). So his investment in the Cavs isn’t quite paying off right now. There’s no guarantee a business will make money, despite the efforts of Gilbert and other hard-liners. With this high a net worth, these guys can afford to take a little hit if business goes bad.
None of this has any impact on the NBA’s financial system. I know that. What I’m talking about is appearances. I’m talking about public opinion. I’m talking about billionaires trying to sell us on one thing, while living a life that even their richest employees can’t afford. Micky Arison could pay LeBron James to be a waiter on his next Carnival Cruise line. He’s got that much money. So owners pushing hard in this lockout just doesn’t sit well.
This is pretty bad timing for this bit of news as far as the NBA is concerned. The two things in today’s NBA news cycle are the cancellation of part of the preseason and how really, really rich these owners are. It will be interesting to see how the NBA combats it.