Owning A Russian Basketball Team Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

If future Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov ever invites you to watch a game in the owner's box, don't accept. Not only will you be stuck watching the Nets, there's a decent chance you'll be caught up in an assassination attempt.

Shabtai Kalmanovich, one of Prokhorov's partners in post-Soviet billionaire sports owner crime, was murdered on Monday. Kalmanovich is the owner of the Spartak Moscow women's basketball team that is famous for shelling out big bucks to sign WNBA stars like Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi. He was also gunned down on the streets of Moscow when another car pulled up alongside his and opened fire. Yeah, not exactly a random act of violence.

Police say they believe that the murder could be linked to Kalmanovich's business activities, and maybe even "his prominent role in Russian basketball." So that must make people like Prokhorov feel really safe and secure. The NBA too. It sure won't make David Stern comfortable imagining one of his owners getting blown away outside the Meadowlands. (Of course, if it happened at the Meadowlands there's a chance no one would notice.) Maybe he's trying to buy the Nets not to bring NBA "technology" to his homeland, but so he can get the hell out of dodge.

Personally, I'm shocked to learn that running a business in the former Soviet Republics could be so dangerous! Or ... here's another theory. Kalmanovich is also a former KGB spy who spent time in an Israeli prison for espionage. I'm not an expert on the post-Cold War politics of Eastern European spy networks, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say his brazen gangland murder might be related to that.

Spartak Moscow owner Shabtai Kalmanovitch assassinated [Women Talk Sports]
Ex-Shin Bet, KGB double agent shot dead in Moscow [Haaretz]
Ex-spy Kalmanovich to be buried in Israel [YnetNews]
Russian spy-turned-tycoon gunned down [The Age]