This weekend, it was announced that former Major League Baseball player Alex Rodriguez would be purchasing a part of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as the Minnesota WNBA team, the Lynx. This was A-Rod’s second attempt at getting his hands on something this valuable. He spectacularly failed last year when he went after a piece of the New York Mets. (It’s really his third attempt if you count him trying to marry J.Lo)… Although the Mets make more sense for him to own for me than an NBA team, his dream has now been realized and he has a pro sports franchise in his control, joining other athletes who are owners of pro teams, from Michael Jordan to Derek Jeter to Shaquille O’Neal.
So what does an ex-MLB All-Star turned broadcaster who used PEDs his whole career bring to the future of the T-Wolves? Jack SQUAT.
At least if we’re using the recent history of ex-athletes as owners of pro sports teams as a guide….
The Mediocre History of Ex-Athletes as Owners of Pro Sports Teams
Most ex-athletes who put money into pro franchises have achieved very little – if any – success. Magic Johnson owns a piece of the Dodgers – who won the World Series last year. But other than that, it’s been a pretty dreadful track record for players-turned-owners. Most of them end up unloading their teams in big fire-sales, barely being a part of the franchise’s development, and chasing billionaires like Steve Ballmer to Mark Cuban all around the league standings. One has to wonder why…
Shaquille O’Neal, Sacramento Kings
The easy answer is this: Shaquille O’Neal, who owns a stake in the Sacramento (SHAQramento Kings), is a pretty busy dude. When he is not hosting Inside the NBA, he is doing commercials for The General, Papa John’s Pizza, and IcyHot or whatever other company pays him to endorse their product and keeping his ownership in Krispy Kreme, Apple, and Google active. Not to mention, he regularly appears on TV, mocks himself, has dropped rap albums, and starred in films. (Shazam 2 – more anticipated than Space Jam 2?) Compare that schedule with Steve Ballmer or Mark Cuban, who basically eat, breathe, and live for their respective basketball teams. Both owners are courtside nightly, hugging players and a vital daily part of their progress and gameplay throughout the season. Do you think Shaquille O’Neal has ever been courtside at a Sacramento Kings game?
Has anybody recognizable ever been seen courtside at a Sacramento Kings game? A quick Google search shows me that Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, grew up in Sac-Town and loves the Kings. Some teams get Drake and Kevin Hart – others get Brie Larson.
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You’re telling me that people DON’T want to sit next to this deranged lion thing?[/caption]
Michael Jordan, Charlotte Hornets
The athlete-turned-owner streak of bad luck begins with Michael Jordan himself. In 2010, he became the first ex-NBA player to own a franchise himself when he purchased the Charlotte Bobcats, now the Hornets. All eyes turned to MJ claiming that if one player could turn a team into contenders, it was the GOAT. Sportsbooks made Charlotte playoff locks. They just assumed that MJ would be able to make “everybody around him better” like he had done in Chicago. But the first 10 years of this franchise under Jordan have been a verified debacle.
Drafting players like Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo had NBA fans thinking that MJ had some secrets up his sleeve. And we all anticipated another 6-ring run for his team. Instead, they have barely made the playoffs, have drafted guys like Noah Vonleh, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Shabazz Napier, and have almost tainted Michael Jordan’s basketball résumé. The future looks bright, however, with LaMelo Ball playing out of his mind (injury be damned) and Miles Bridges living that lob life. (Shout out “AirBnB” – great nickname for this duo.)
Seeing Michael Jordan struggle with a team, however, has got to be daunting for ex-athletes who dream of stepping into the owner’s box. People claim that when Jordan watches games, he looks like he is one uniform change away from jumping on the court and challenging other teams himself. That intensity might even be intimidating for some of the players who played in the post-Jordan era. In my opinion, LaMelo is a second-generation removed from MJ’s time, and growing up with the immense pressure he faced actually helps him handle a guy like Jordan.
Magic Johnson, Los Lakers
Another ex-NBA superstar who has had ups and downs in an upper management basketball position is Magic Johnson. He was a part-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers for over ten years and then the President of Basketball Operations in the late 2010s. Okay, look, with Kobe/Shaq and Kobe/Pau Gasol, Magic was technically an owner of five championship teams. But his involvement was extremely limited. As President, he oversaw the embarrassing Jordan Hill/Swaggy P era of the team and then left after accusing GM Rob Pelinka of betraying him. Betrayal? What is this, The Count of Monte Cristo?
Of course, Magic shifted to baseball and the WNBA and at this point may be one of the only ones who own rings with an NBA franchise, an MLB franchise, and a WNBA team. (His LA Sparks won it all in 2016.) That is impressive enough, but he has expressed no desire to get back into the NBA team ownership position any time soon.
(He also gave one of the most abrupt resignations ever, where he complained that he couldn’t tweet as much when he was president
So arguably the two best players of their generation, MJ and Magic have struggled in their NBA ownership positions. Can we really expect any better from other athletes becoming owners of pro sports teams?
Alex Rodriguez, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Linx
So now, here comes A-Rod. The man who once kissed an image of himself in a GQ spread. A man who denied taking part in the Biogenesis scandal. A man who slapped a ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove trying to beat out a slow roller. His controversial streak and borderline annoying voice in the broadcast booth doesn’t exactly ring up much excitement for me considering that I really have NO IDEA if this guy has any clue about basketball whatsoever. Ballmer and Cuban are lifelong SUPER FANS. A-Rod seems more like a hustler trying to take advantage of the sport’s popularity.
According to the deal, they must keep the team in Minnesota and will not be able to ship Anthony Edwards and company to Florida, where A-Rod grew up. His partner is an e-commerce billionaire. And something tells me that this franchise, which is already struggling, may be looking at a similar fate to what Alex’s old buddy Derek Jeter has done with the Miami Marlins.
Derek Jeter, Miami Marlins
Jeter seemed to be a great fit as a baseball owner. The Hall of Famer was a dream Yankee and should have helped Miami turn their sunshine state around with players like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Domingo German, etc. But they traded EVERYBODY away. What was Jeter thinking? Unless he has some master plan to draft and acquire better players than those, he may have earned the title of one of the worst sports owners of all time. (Maybe he turns it around like Billy Beane and we start referring to his tactics as “Jeterball.”)
Of course, up until now, a “Jeterball” is known as a signed souvenir he gave to all of his one-night stands in gift baskets after sleeping with them in New York.
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This was easily the most impressive part of his career.[/caption]
So A-Rod and Jeter both own sports franchises. Are Timberwolves fans happy about A-Rod? I doubt it. They haven’t been happy about much since Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury broke up. Maybe Edwards is a piece of the future. But knowing what I know about the character of Alex Rodriguez, this team seems destined for another decade of mediocrity.
And what are the chances we see Alex Rodriguez courtside nightly in Minnesota? Well, another Google search just revealed that Craig Kilborn, the former SportsCenter and Daily Show anchor, is the Timberwolves’ most famous fan…
Looks like it’s gonna be a long ride…