Our battle continues on the West side of the continent, where we’ve pit the majority owners of the Playoff teams against each other to see who’s in the West’s got the best cheddar. It’s a battle of moguls and tycoons, where no holds are barred and nobody ever has to fight over the check. It’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be easy, but in the end we’ll see who’s moving closer to being crowned the best billionaire on the block.
The Ghost of Jerry Buss (LA Lakers) vs Peter Holt (San Antonio Spurs)
Peter Holt is a genuine minted war hero, he got a Silver Star, three Bronze stars, and a purple heart and spend his Vietnam days thick in the shit. When he got back from the hero business, he took up the family trade and sold tractors. He sells tractors very very very well. Jerry Buss on the other hand is a self made man, got a PHD in chemistry, and found out quick he had a knack for the real estate game, the kind of knack that builds empires. Even from the grave the man shakes the ground of the NBA, he set up the league’s most dominant franchise and debateably the most profitable (the Lakers back-and-forth that honor with the Knicks). Bottom line, both men love(d) their teams and both of them are high in the running for most decent owner in the league, but the edge goes to the man in uniform who’s still above ground.
Robert Pera (Memphis Grizzlies) vs Donald Sterling (LA Clippers)
Even though Pera, a former Apple supernerd and current billionaire, is technically only the chairman of the company that owns the Grizzlies, he’s 35, which marks him as probably the coolest owner of any sport and one of the newest too. Donald Sterling on the other hand, became the longest living NBA owner when Jerry Buss died, having bought the team for a cool 12 million in the eighties. Sterling has run the gamut of bad press, having been accused of racism in his real estate business, and worse yet, penny pinching with his team, but in both those cases the old guy is starting to come around. Pera on the other hand, is just some nice computer guy who’s over all that stuff. This is a tough back and forth, but as with all things, a changing of the guard is good for everybody, and Pera puts the old man out to pasture.
Stan Kroenke (Denver Nuggets) vs Joe Lacob(Golden State Warriors)
It’s the battle of the bulge, but the bulgiest of them all has to be Stan the man Kroenke. Forget that he owns an NFL, NHL, NBA franchise (and some soccer club called “Arsenal”? I never heard of it either). Just push that out of your mind, because his better half Ann is a Wal-Mart heiress. This means that whenever you and Stan go out for drinks, you should make him pay. It also means that the NBA lockout last year was completely ridiculous. Wearing the other gold trunks is Venture Capitalist Joe Lacob, a self made mogul with working class roots who’s probably the biggest basketball fan of all the owners. He’s been in the basketball ownership game for a long time, and once even held a piece of the Celtics before he traded up to the big chair with the GSW. Lacob is part of the boys club, with a reputation for being sneaky (his bid for the team in 2010 undercut a lot of serious money) and he puts up a good fight, but Kroenke is a financial force of nature, and could easily buy out the ground from under his feet.
Leslie Alexander (Houston Rockets) vs Clayton Bennett (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Say what you will about vegetarians, but Leslie Alexander doesn’t miss a meal when it comes to moneymaking, and with 1.7 billion in the bank, nobody’s stealing his lunch. He’s a Jersey boy, a force for animal rights, and the kind of stock trader you hope your daughter marries. The problem with this match up is, he’s going against an inside man. Clayton Bennett owned a piece of the Spurs before he quarterbacked the Hornet’s temporary relocation from the Big Easy after Katrina. If you’re from Seattle he is probably the most hated man you know, but if you call Oklahoma city home he’s somewhere between Jesus and Elvis. Aside from owning the Thunder, he’s also the NBA’s current point-man for any and all franchise relocations. It’s a tight fight, but the transplanted Texan’s clout just has to win out, and Bennett has to watch the second round from the boxes, with only his 400 million to keep him company.