The NBA's worst owners

The NBA's worst owners

Here are the lousiest owners in The Association now that Robert Sarver has been given the boot

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When Robert Sarver announced he was selling the Phoenix Suns, the NBA team he had owned since 2006, after a lengthy investigation by the NBA for workplace malfeasance and offenses, I barely shrugged. How awful could it have been, I thought to myself. My concept of the workplace was poisoned by an eight-year stretch at a machine shop in my twenties working for a wretched boss. It took days for me to reprogram my point of view to find empathy in the offenses Sarver committed against employees who trusted him and depended on his money and power for their livelihood.

It’s over a decade since I left that job, but the stench of my abuse has stayed with me. When my anxiety and depression are at their worst, I can’t get the taste of Hexane out of my mouth. Which made me think, which NBA owners are left that could be considered terrible bosses? Sarver, and Donald Sterling before him, are certainly not the only bad apples of NBA owners. Thinking about the old bastard who used to haunt my job, like The Babadook, got me thinking about the league I love. The NBA has been my refuge during multiple breakdowns and bouts of depression over the years. But what of the employees, players, and front-office executives that have had to deal with their own horrible bosses? Sure, Sarver’s gone, but who remains on the shit list of horrible bosses? Let’s review.

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2 / 10

James Dolan

James Dolan

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Dolan is the OG of terrible NBA owners. He has been at the helm of the New York Knicks for over 20 years now and, for almost two decades, he’s done damn near everything he could to destroy the team’s reputation from the inside. While Sarver and Sterling have been excised from the league, Dolan lives on like a cockroach after a nuclear blast. The 2000s were the low point of his tenure when he hired Isiah Thomas to oversee the team’s front office and eventually coach.

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3 / 10

Dolan (cont’d)

Dolan (cont’d)

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During that period, Thomas made some of the worst trades (see Eddy Curry) and free agent signings (see Jerome James) in NBA history. As the losing mounted season after season, Dolan stayed hands off, allowing Thomas to trade critical draft picks and young players. Worst of all, Thomas and the Knicks’ star player, Stephon Marbury, were involved in a sexual harassment suit with a former Knicks front office employee, that cost the Knicks an $11.5 million settlement.

Worst moments

  • During a game, he kicked revered Knicks legend Charles Oakley out of MSG and smeared his reputation afterward.
  • He hired good friend Isiah Thomas to run and coach the team, resulting in monumental, historical losing.
  • He hired the splashy name of Phil Jackson, who almost destroyed the team through bad trades and free-agent signings.
  • He forced then-Knicks GM Donnie Walsh to give up more assets than needed to trade for Carmelo Anthony instead of signing him in free agency outright.
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4 / 10

Mark Cuban 

Mark Cuban 

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Because of this affable personality, acts of goodwill, crypto-bro Tweets, and appearances on Shark Tank, Cuban is generally considered an all-around good guy. But as an owner, he’s been an unmitigated mess. The Mavs are a poverty franchise wrapped in 50-game winning seasons and first-round exits. Cuban’s hand-wringing over the team’s direction has made him the shadow GM. It got so bad the former Mavs Big Three of Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Michael Finley had to tell him to chill the fuck out.

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5 / 10

Cuban (cont’d)

Cuban (cont’d)

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Back in 2018, Sports Illustrated published their investigation into the Mavs’ corrosive workplace culture, which went on under Cuban’s purview. Even more embarrassing, it wasn’t the last time it would happen. Cuban’s immaturity and failure at maintaining a healthy work environment turned the Mavericks from championship winners in 2011 into a poverty franchise, where they have stayed, unable to build around current superstar Luka Dončić properly. The loss of their second-best player, Jalen Brunson, to the Knicks this summer proved Cuban has failed to build a team their own free agents want to stay with, much less one other free agents joining the team. bUt The WiNiNg!

Worst moments

  • He refused to pay All-Star free agent Steve Nash what he was worth due to feeling he would break down over the next few years. Nash then went to Phoenix, where he did not break down.
  • He allowed the front office of the team he owns to turn into an “Animal House.”
  • He broke up a championship roster to chase free agents like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, who were never coming to Dallas.
  • That time when Ex-GM Donnie Nelson sued the Dallas Mavericks, claiming one of Mark Cuban’s executives sexually assaulted his nephew.
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6 / 10

Joe Tsai

Joe Tsai

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Tsai has been outspoken in his support for initiatives toward social justice campaigns in America, combating racism and discrimination. However, with his company Alibaba, he partners with blacklisted companies in China to support a “campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-tech surveillance” through state-of-the-art racial profiling.

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7 / 10

Tsai (cont’d)

Tsai (cont’d)

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ESPN’s Tsai expose covered his contradictions and outright despicable tactics in China:

“Tsai has publicly defended some of China’s most controversial policies. He described the government’s brutal crackdown on dissent as necessary to promote economic growth; defended a law used to imprison scores of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong as necessary to squelch separatism; and, when questioned about human rights, asserted that most of China’s 1.4 billion citizens are ‘happy about where they are.’”

Worst moments

  • The contradictions of Tsai’s social justice campaigns in America while propagating human rights violations in China.
  • The way he handled his internal disputes with players on social media, subtweeting Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant this summer when both players were on the brink of being traded.
  • He tried to buy a championship with splashy free-agent signings and trades instead of building upon draft and development.
  • Overseeing the shit show the Brooklyn Nets have become, overtaking the Knicks as the biggest circus in town.
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8 / 10

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

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The greatest player of all time is one of the worst owners in sports history. Since taking over the team in 2010 as majority owner, he has run the franchise into the ground through terrible drafting, bloated contracts, and a revolving door of coaches and players. They fired former head coach James Borrego out of nowhere after he lead them to a winning record in 2021-2022.

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9 / 10

Jordan (cont’d)

Jordan (cont’d)

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He can’t be blamed for the current situation with Miles Bridges, who the team rightly cut ties with. But he can be held responsible for the Hornets making the playoffs just twice since taking over as majority owner in 2010. Of those two appearances, neither resulted in winning a series. They have fumbled every halfway decent player they’ve been able to draft. Their roster has been left rudderless, lacking leadership accountability and a winning culture.

Worst moments

  • Letting Kemba Walker, the franchise’s most beloved and best player, walk for nothing in free agency.
  • He reportedly led a team of NBA owners during the 2011 NBA Lockout, to cap player’s basketball-related income at 50 percent or below.
  • In the 2012 NBA Draft, Jordan selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick over Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, and Draymond Green.
  • The Hornets are the only team in NBA history that has never paid the NBA luxury tax, showing Jordan’s infuriating focus on maintaining profitability over paying what it takes to acquire and retain top talent.
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10 / 10