There are few constants that run deeper in sports fandom than the fantasy, however brief and tempered, of owning a professional team. It’s sort of part and parcel with enjoying a sport that’s governed by organizations — the thought experiments that arise whenever a team refuses to go over the luxury tax or signs off on a free agent, or launches an ill-timed slogan like “Something2Prove,” which was the Miami Heat’s ’08-’09 rallying cry (and also, possibly, an unreleased Prince B-side). Everyone wants to be an owner, but few people actually possess the fiscal ability to get there.
There’s also the fact that the waiting list for the NBA is fairly cutthroat, especially in the wake of the Donald Sterling episode. If the sale actually ever goes through, Steve Ballmer will have paid a reported $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers, a mark that eclipses the previous league record, also set in 2014, a $550 million deal for the Milwaukee Bucks, just a notch above the Sacramento Kings’ $525 million price tag from 2013. This is exclusively expensive, regardless of where your team is, or whether they’re any good.
But do you have to be the former CEO of a technology giant to find yourself in a position to purchase an NBA team? Not necessarily. We took a look at the best owners and ownership groups around the league — best in this case meaning a combination of the team’s successes and the “risks” the ownership takes with holding onto the franchise. So, basically, if the team was as good as the Oklahoma City Thunder but saddled with the same sort of notoriously cheap and ethically suspect ownership, they don’t make the list. Sorry, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but you guys have some lame people in charge. Rankings are based, somewhat, on how the team fared in the most recent NBA playoffs.