Joe Tsai bought 49% of the Nets last year and has the rights to assume majority control of the team in 2021. The billionaire businessman had an opportunity to instead make a play for the Rockets, but he ultimately took the deal with Mikhail Prokhorov because of his love for the City of New York, as he tells Paul Carcaterra of US Lacrosse Magazine (h/t Brian Lewis of the New York Post).
“At the same time the Nets were up for sale…the owners of the Houston Rockets also put the team up for sale. We thought about it, but we decided to put the focus on the Nets because I just couldn’t imagine myself spending too much [time] in Houston,” said Tsai. “No knock on Houston, but I love New York. And owning a sports team, especially in a major league like the NBA, it’s like owning a nice apartment on Park Avenue: The value’s not going to go down.
“From a business standpoint, it made a lot of sense. Then, I was looking at the upside. The NBA and basketball is a very, very big sport globally. Everywhere, people love the NBA, especially in China. I was seeing how the people loved the sport in China. Also, in Southeast Asia, in the Philippines, they love basketball. Indonesia. Even Mexico; that’s going to be a big market. So there’s a lot of international expansion opportunities. So it all made sense.”
Tsai, who is the executive vice chairman of online retailer Alibaba, believes the players and owners each receive a “fair share” of the revenue in the NBA. He also views the league’s TV deal – specifically how the revenue is split evenly between all 30 teams – as a major positive, calling it “kind of a socialist system.”
“So as we peeled through the materials, the more we looked at it —this is really more specific to the NBA — the NBA is really interesting from a business standpoint. You have a very good system to share the economics between the owners and the players,” Tsai said. “The players are very, very important. In any sport, without the talent — the players — you’re not going to have a good team and you’re not going to have fans. So they’re very, very important.
Tsai also owns the WNBA’S New York Liberty, which he purchased earlier this year. Last year, he aligned with Sixers owner Michael Rubin among others in an attempt to buy the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, though the group’s bid was not successful.