The Top 5 Best & Worst NBA Owners

By: 06.08.10  •  34 Comments

With Mikhail Prokhorov making waves around the League, and showing just how important an owner can be to a team’s success, we decided to rank the five best and five worst owners in the NBA based on their popularity with fans and players as well as their team’s on-court performance.


1. Mark Cuban
Any discussion of the best owner in basketball begins and ends with Mark Cuban. This man has poured his heart and soul into the Mavericks (and his cash) making them a mainstay in the NBA playoffs come April. Despite the fact that Dallas has yet to win a title in his tenure, Cuban has done everything short of playing for the Mavs in trying to get it done, and is also beloved by the team’s fans.

2. Jerry Buss
Buss has been a great owner because of his willingness to stay out of the way and let the basketball people handle their jobs. Under his watch since 1979, the Lakers have won nine championships – which is truly remarkable considering they have won over a quarter of the championships since Buss took over. He has also been willing to spend the money to keep marquee players, and bring in excellent coaches like Pat Riley and Phil Jackson.

3. Peter Holt
Holt saved the Spurs from relocating from San Antonio and his community-based philosophy has made the Spurs the pride of the city. Under his leadership, the Spurs have won four championships, and his organization has remained a model of stability with R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich at the helm of basketball operations for years; and Tim Duncan the face of the franchise for just as long.

4. Dan Gilbert
Gilbert purchased the Cavaliers from long-time owner Gordon Gund, and has made a lot of improvements to the team as owner. He refurbished the Quicken Loans Arena and built a new practice facility for the team. He has also gave Danny Ferry and the front-office the means to make any trade or move necessary for the betterment of the franchise. He has also done all he can to entice LeBron to stay with the Cavs.

5. Leslie Alexander
Alexander purchased the Rockets in 1993 right before their championships in 1994 and 1995. The franchise has been very successful in his tenure as owner, and Alexander deserves a lot of credit for being an innovative basketball man. It was his decision to bring on numbers freak Daryl Morey when not many NBA teams would, and the decision has paid off as Morey has built a very good Rockets team.


1. Donald Sterling
Probably one of the worst owners in all of sports, not just the NBA. Sterling is a notorious penny-pincher who has refused to invest in the Clippers – and as a result has made them a laughingstock during his entire tenure as owner. All of this on top of the fact that the Clippers have won only one playoff series in Sterling’s nearly 30-year tenure solidifies him as by far the worst owner in the NBA.

2. Chris Cohan
Cohan is in the process of selling the team, but since he is still currently the owner, he falls on this list right behind Sterling. Cohan’s Warriors have only made the playoffs once in Cohan’s 15 years of ownership, and he is much maligned amongst the super-loyal Warrior fan base. The fact that the Warriors still draw fans at a high level is a testament to their love for the team not the product Cohan has put on the court.

3. James Dolan
Dolan has transformed the Knicks from marquee NBA franchise into a joke. He is responsible for hiring Isiah Thomas and allowing him to run the team into the ground for way too long, and is also responsible for David Stern‘s 2007 remark that the Knicks are “not a model of intelligent management.” Dolan also has isolated the media which can be a problem owning a team in the world’s largest market. If he does get one high mark, it is for his willingness to spend money even if he spends it irresponsibly.

4. Michael Jordan
Despite only being the majority owner of the Bobcats for half of this past season, Jordan’s tenures as minority owner have been rocky to say the least. With the Wizards as a minority owner and director of basketball operations, Jordan drafted Kwame Brown and traded Rip Hamilton, eventually being fired by the late Abe Pollin. With Charlotte, after buying a share of the team, he made himself director of basketball ops again and has made some mind-boggling basketball moves. As long as Jordan owns the Bobcats and is in control, I don’t see much hope for Charlotte basketball.

5. Robert Sarver
Sarver bought the team from basketball lifer Jerry Colangelo and has yet to live up to Colangelo’s legacy. The Suns have been successful over the past few years despite Sarver’s ownership, not because of it. He has been very frugal when spending money on the team, and his reluctance to go over the luxury tax (despite having a team that could potentially win a championship) has been troubling. Also, his decision to sell numerous draft picks over the years has stunted the Suns’ development of youth, making him an owner that is unpopular with his fans.

What do you think? Who are the best and worst NBA owners?

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