Is Technology The Answer To The NBA Owner Problem?

Not entirely but follow the money & you’ll see it has to play a part. STEM fields have had a big role in creating the fortunes of roughly half of today’s  NBA owners. Robert Johnson, the first African-American majority owner of a major sports team says he used tech ideas and a lot of tech money() to purchase the Charlotte Bobcats:

Pay TV opened my eyes. Once I understood the technology and saw that the technology could take a signal and send it all across the country simultaneously to different stations, then it became clear to me that programming could be segmented and targeted to different audiences, and so it didn’t take a big leap from that to say, ‘Wow, wait a minute, that’s what we’re already doing in the black community with print.’ Ebony magazine, for instance, is a targeted magazine. To some extent, black radio is a targeted medium. I said, ‘Wow, you could take this concept of technology and target black programming, which has always been a dream of various individual black media types–creating a black-oriented network.’ The idea was talked about in various blue-sky articles that argued that cable was going to be the democratization of media, but nothing like that existed.

I took out a $15,000 loan from a bank and set out to form a business. My big break came when cable magnate John Malone, then CEO of Tele-Communications Inc., the country’s third-largest cable company, decided to invest in my company

The Market Nobody Wanted

This was 1980 – $15K would be $43K and $500K would be $1.4M in 2014. Johnson is far from alone, half of the current NBA owners created their wealth through STEM related fields:

  1. Hawks
    1. Levenson – United Communications Group
    2. Gearon – American Tower
  2. Celtics Grousbeck VC Medical tech
  3. Nets – Prokhorov – Mining
  4. Cavaliers – Gilbert -Quicken Loans
  5. Mavs – Cuban – broadcast.com
  6. Pistons – Gores Platinum Equity LLC(initially and mostly tech investments)
  7. Celtics – Lacob(Biological sciences) – Kliener Perkins VC
  8. Lakers – Dr Buss background in physical chemistry
  9. Grizzlies – Pera MSEE Apple, Ubiquiti Networks
  10. Timberwolves – Taylor(BS Math-Physics-Social Science) – Taylor Corporation
  11. Knicks – James Dolan – Cablevision
  12. Trailblazers – Allen – Microsoft
  13. Kings – Ranadive(MSEE) TIBCO
  14. Spurs – Holt – Caterpillar
  15. Raptors – Tanenbaum – Kilmer Group
  16. Wizards – Leonsis-AOL

Big Props to David West for cutting to the chase with his “Plantation Politics” tweets because a majority black league ought to have more than one black owner and one shouldn’t be surprised that owners aren’t/haven’t been rushing to distance themselves from Donald Sterling.  Slavery is a recurring theme here which may make some folk uncomfortable. However, discomfort can be a good thing. Harriet Tubman reportedly said “I could have freed so many more if they had known they were slaves”. Many of the NBA owners who leveraged STEM, were not actually STEM professionals themselves but they were aware of the potential and had access to STEM professionals. We need a village.

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