Don’t Play for a Pro Team. Own One.

Michael Jordan’s takeover of the Bobcats makes him the only black majority owner of a major U.S. sports franchise.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Michael Jordan, pro basketball’s greatest player, and a lackluster executive for two franchises, once said in a Nike commercial, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

He got another chance when his bid for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats was accepted. Although, how much he paid is in dispute. Forbes magazine set the Bobcats’ value at $175 million: a steep plunge from the $300 million Robert L. Johnson paid for the team in 2003.

The NBA won’t provide details, but a spokesman’s e-mail to The Root stated, “we expect the transaction will value the Bobcats at between $275-$290 million and that Michael Jordan is acquiring an 80 percent stake.”

The deal between Johnson, the first black majority owner of a major U.S. pro sports team, and NBA legend Michael Jordan, who earned hundreds of millions highlights why no other blacks own controlling shares in pro basketball, football or baseball teams.

During segregation, when fan interest was high, start-up costs were low, and there was scant competition, blacks started, bought and sold leagues and teams. Today’s pro sports owners–often billionaires–have access to enormous capital, influential associates and can manage the timing of a deal.

Since the 1980s, African Americans have controlled one or two of those ingredients, but the trio needed to be a majority owner eluded everyone except Johnson and Jordan. Blacks are, and have been, pro team limited partners. This is a look at some of those would-be owners, as well as individuals who decided to invest in teams in less expensive pro sports.