Many basketball fans grow up dreaming of one day owning an NBA team. They see themselves sitting in a luxury box or courtside for every game. They dream of building their own championship team and hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Mark Cuban is their idol. These few sentences aptly describe me, and I’m sure millions of others, but one man they don’t describe is Michael Alter.
Alter is the owner of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, and unlike many, he never grew up dreaming of owning a sports franchise. He grew up in Chicago and was an avid sports fan, but becoming an owner and venturing into the sports world never appealed to him. He is still kind of surprised that he actually owns his own team, but while many buy sports franchises to fulfill a dream, Alter founded the Sky in order to give back to his hometown.
His entry into the world of WNBA basketball came during a dinner he attended in the mid-2000s. At the time, he was not following the WNBA and knew pretty much nothing about the league, but at that dinner he met a few WNBA players whom he found to be incredibly impressive women with such a passion for their sport. Upon finding out Chicago didn’t have a WNBA team of its own, Alter decided to take it upon himself to bring one to The Windy City.
“It was a very sort of spontaneous decision,” he says about getting involved in the WNBA. “When talking to those players, I was very surprised to hear that at that time the WNBA had been around for seven or eight years and there was no franchise in Chicago, and as a native Chicagoan I was kind of embarrassed by that. I felt it was important that this league come to Chicago, which is a great sports town, and these women are phenomenal role models and world-class athletes so I felt it was important Chicago had a team of its own.”
That fateful dinner meeting resulted in Chicago being awarded a WNBA expansion franchise in February of 2005. Later in the year, the organization decided on the name Chicago Sky to represent Chicago’s skyline. The team held an expansion draft in November of 2005, and former NBA player and coach Dave Cowens was tabbed to lead the Sky in their inaugural season which would be 2006. Alter’s latest community venture had come to fruition, and I say his latest venture because Alter has a history of giving back to the Chicago community.