Sweep-the-SwampCast! May 10, 2019

In this edition, SwampSwami discusses the collapse of the Boston Celtics, the rise of the Milwaukee Bucks, and the hilarity surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers. We’ll also talk about how instant replay just ruined another sport – horse racing! Finally, we’ll talk about a couple of professional athletes whose lives have been affected by alcoholism.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend! Remember to tell your Mom “I love you” while you still can!

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Choke City – 25 years later

Twenty-five years ago this spring, the Houston Rockets were playing Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the 1994 NBA Western Division semi-finals.

The Rockets, who were favored in the series, surprisingly lost both Game 1 and Game 2 at home by blowing fourth quarter leads.  After the team’s ugly Game 2 loss, the Houston newspaper featured the headline “Choke City” with a story about how the local team had wilted under pressure.

That Houston Rockets’ team eventually rallied to win the series over Phoenix four games to three.  In the NBA Finals, the Rockets found themselves down again three games to two but rallied to win games six and seven and collected the first of their two consecutive NBA championships. 

With the title, the same Houston newspaper published the headline “Clutch City” to denote the team’s ability to focus when the chips were down and win under extreme pressure.

Twenty-five years later, the Houston Rockets are again in the Western Division semi-finals of the NBA playoffs playing the Golden State Warriors.  This year, though, the home teams have won all four games.  Nobody in Houston is even thinking “Choke City” with the series tied 2-2.

In Boston, though, things are quite different.  The city, which had endured a long drought of championships from its baseball, football, basketball, and hockey teams, has seen great success with their sports franchises since the year 2000.    

The New England Patriots have won six of the past 18 National Football League Championships.  The Boston Red Sox have won baseball’s World Series four times, and the Boston Bruins have hoisted hockey’s Stanley Cup back in 2011. 

The Boston Celtics basketball team is known for its winning ways.  The Celtics have won the NBA title 17 times, but only one time (2008) since 1986 after the Larry Bird era ended. 

Boston’s sports fans have become quite proud of their recent championship successes.  This season, the expectations were sky high for the Celtics to return to the mountaintop of professional basketball again.

That’s because, at the end of last season, the scrappy Celtics had fought their way into the NBA Eastern Conference finals before finally losing to the LeBron James’ led Cleveland Cavaliers. 

This year, the Celtics would have all-star guard Kyrie Irving healthy again and add former Utah Jazz all-star forward Gordon Hayward into the line-up.  With LeBron James leaving Cleveland for the Western conference Los Angeles Lakers, it was easy to see why Boston Celtics fans were thinking that their beloved basketball franchise might be heading for another championship season.

Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics have just dropped two straight home games in Boston Garden the past week and now trail the surprising Milwaukee Bucks three games to one heading back to Milwaukee for Thursday night’s Game 5. 

On this website, I have provided my opinions on why I think Kyrie Irving has been a really bad fit in Boston.  Now, some of his Celtics teammates and many fans seem ready to pay for his moving van out of town, too.

After Monday night’s loss to Milwaukee, Irving, who shot a dismal 7 for 22 from the field and has gone 19 out of 62 in the past three games (all losses), told the media he should have taken even more shots than he did during Game 4 in Boston Monday.

Irving said, “For me, the 22 shots?  I should have shot 30. I’m that great of a shooter.”

Great shooter?   I don’t believe that a 31% field goal percentage equates to such an egotistical claim.    

Great shooters are not necessarily measured by points scored alone.  In the professional ranks, you need to be effective when it counts the most. 

I may have been considered a good shooter in high school, but I’m not an NBA player being paid $20 million per season to prove it when your team is in the second round of the playoffs. 

Kyrie Irving’s contract with the Boston Celtics could continue for one more season, but he has the right to ask for an early termination of his current contract this summer. 

Given the immature way in which Irving has handled himself in Boston for much of this season and now in the playoffs, a mutual parting of the ways seems to be quite likely.

Unless…

The Boston Celtics rally from a 3-1 deficit to win this series (a 5% statistical chance based on historical NBA stats), that is.   

More likely, though, that ugly moniker of “Choke City” may show-up again after a twenty-five year break after the self-proclaimed “Great Shooter” Kyrie Irving and the highly-hyped Boston Celtics fail to live up to fans’ expectations. 

Sweep-the-SwampCast! May 3, 2019

In today’s podcast only show, your SwampSwami takes a peek at Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby. With the favorite (Omaha Beach) out of the race due to a breathing problem, SwampSwami suggests another horse for the field!

We’ll also review the NBA playoffs, the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, and learn about the brave professional golfer who finally unloaded about slow-play after enduring another 5 1/2 hour round of golf on tour last week.

Finally, we salute the passing of an actor who played one of our favorite movie characters over the last 40 years!

To listen, please click on the button above. Better yet, all of SwampSwami program are on Apple Podcasts! It’s free – try it today!

Sweep-the-SwampCast! April 12, 2019

It’s finally here! The Masters is now underway and will conclude this weekend (weather permitting). Most of your favorite golf names are in the hunt for the famed Green Jacket, too.

In today’s podcast-only version of the show, we’ll discuss the start of the NBA playoffs; a better idea for the NBA’s draft lottery system (“Your wish is granted”!); tip our sports cap to a couple of retiring NBA legends; take a final look at the NCAA Men’s basketball championship game and how officiating and those bothersome instant replays really need an overhaul (“Your wish is granted…again!”); and entice you to spend your weekend watching The Masters!

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Oh yes, they call him “The Streak”!

In Houston, Rockets’ incredible scoring machine named James Harden just seems to keep outdoing himself lately.

I watched Monday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.  Would you believe that James Harden scored 57 points, captured 9 rebounds, and sold popcorn at halftime of the Rockets’ 112-94 victory?

OK, he probably didn’t sell popcorn at halftime, but he did have 36 points in the first half alone!

Did I say that he scored 57 after playing another game just 24 hours earlier on the road in Orlando?

Did I mention that he scored 57 points without having the Rockets’ starting center, Clint Capela (thumb injury) or starting point guard, Chris Paul (leg) in the line-up?

Did I fail to say that Memphis came into Houston’s Toyota Center sporting the NBA’s best team defensive statistics (102 ppg)?  As Rocket’s Hall-of-Fame analyst Calvin Murphy pondered, “Don’t you think Memphis might have tried to double-team him”?

The most amazing stat about James Harden’s performance was that he played only 34 minutes in the game to get his 57 points.  Harden (aka “The Beard”) scored nearly two points for every minute he was on the floor Monday night for the Rockets. 

The Rockets’ guard is the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player.  Counting last night’s performance, James Harden has now scored thirty or more points in 17 consecutive games

With that, Harden’s streak eclipsed the prior longest streak (since the ABA/NBA merger) held by Los Angeles Laker legend, Kobe Bryant, back in 2003.  The NBA all-time 30 points per game streak record is held by Wilt Chamberlain (20) in 1964 followed by Elgin Baylor’s 18 consecutive games in 1961 and into early 1962.

Harden is currently averaging nearly 35 points per game and is a whopping five points per game ahead of both Kevin Durant (Warriors) and Anthony Davis (Pelicans – for now). 

James Harden’s sizzling hot streak has taken greater significance with Chris Paul’s being sidelined with his latest injury (hamstring) twelve games ago in mid-December.

The Rockets’ scoring machine has done his personal best to keep the team in contention in the always-tight NBA Western Conference standings.   Houston has moved up to fourth place and has won seven of its last ten games.

James Harden’s critics may talk about how the Rockets’ guard receives more-than-favorable treatment from the NBA’s referees.  An 86% free throw shooter, Harden averages nearly ten points per game from the free throw line alone.

Harden is big enough (at 6’6”) to score over smaller NBA guards and strong enough to work his way to the basket to score lay-ups.  He leads the NBA in three point shots made (nearly 5 per game) and shoots 38% from long-range. 

Whether shooting from inside or outside, James Harden reminds me of San Antonio Spurs’ Hall-of-Fame legend, George Gervin.  “The Iceman” averaged over 25 points per game over his 14-year professional career in the 1970’s and 80’s. 

Both were gifted scorers.  Neither player met a shot they didn’t like!

For now, Houston Rockets fans are enjoying the chance to watch history unfold. 

With only three more games to go to reach Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time 30 points consecutive game scoring streak, James Harden is on quite a historic roll.

Will Melo morph into a team player in Houston?

According to media reports, Carmelo Anthony will bring his talents to Humidity City soon to become a member of the Houston Rockets.

After a failed experiment in Oklahoma City last season with two other established NBA stars on the same starting five, why would (or should) anyone believe it will be any different this season in Houston with James Harden and Chris Paul on the floor with him?

The Houston Rockets came tantalizingly close to winning the NBA championship this past season.  Though the Golden State Warriors earned their hard-fought 4-3 series victory over Houston, the Rockets lost Game 7 at home without Chris Paul on the floor due to an injury.  As expected, Golden State went on to stomp Cleveland again and take the title.

Last month, the Phoenix Suns made a $15 million “offer you can’t refuse” to Houston’s defensive stalwart forward and all-purpose team player, Trevor Ariza.  Ariza’s offensive game was often shaky, but he was the player usually assigned to guard the best player on the opponent’s side as well.  He worked hard every game and was a quiet contributor on a squad with two future Hall-of-Famers on it.

So, the Rockets just lost their defensive ace and are replacing him with a guy who embraces the word “defense” about as much as most of us embrace the word “dentist”?

Here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about Carmelo Anthony while researching this article.

  1. He has started every single NBA game (all 1,054 of them) and (albeit one season at Syracuse) college game he has played in.  If the Rockets ask him to come off the bench this season , Carmelo Anthony must be willing to sacrifice his own desires for the benefit of the team.  Hmm – the odds are against that.
  2. Did you know that Carmelo Anthony and some chap named LeBron James played against each other in high school?  Anthony’s academic performance in high school had put his commitment to Syracuse in jeopardy, so he transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for his final year of high school to (cough) bolster his academic standing.  In that game, LeBron scored 36 points for his Akron, Ohio team, but Carmelo added 34 in leading his team to a win.
  3. That said, one of those two men (LBJ) has continued to grow as a team leader and has taken his team (Miami and Cleveland) to the NBA Finals in eight consecutive years.  Carmelo Anthony continues to score a lot of points (22 points per game for his lengthy career), but he has yet to reach a single NBA Finals in the same number of years in the league.  Just sayin…
  4. After last season ended in Oklahoma City, here’s what Carmelo Anthony had to say – “It wasn’t a good fit…. Everything was just so rushed, going to the team for media day and the day before training camp. Them guys already had something in place, and then I come along in the 25th hour like, oh s—, Melo just come on and join us. Like, you can figure it out since you’ve been around the game for a long time. That’s why it was so inconsistent. At times, I had to figure it out on my own rather than somebody over there or people over there helping me.”  Is that leadership or finger pointing?
  5. This season, Carmelo Anthony will be playing for a coach (Mike D’Antoni) whom he (figuratively) threw under the bus while both were at the New York Knicks several years ago.  D’Antoni quit as coach of the team and has become quite successful elsewhere since their parting.  Is that leadership or selfishness?

For Houston to be successful with Carmelo Anthony, it boils down to one single person.  Chris Paul.  These two guys are close friends off the court.

And, like Carmelo Anthony, CP3 has yet to make it to an NBA Finals in his lengthy career.  Chris Paul’s leadership skills on the court may be just the glue to keep Carmelo Anthony from scapegoating another coach or organization for his own personal lack of accountability in his disappointing NBA career up to this point.

Can Chris Paul play the “Big Brother” for Carmelo Anthony and get the “good” Carmelo Anthony to shine through?

Or will Carmelo Anthony find a way to blame Chris Paul, James Harden, Mike D’Antoni, and others for a lack of success on the court this season?

At this point, I believe CP3 will be a positive and calming influence on an aging Carmelo Anthony on the court.  With gifted assist artists like Chris Paul and James Harden handling the basketball, Carmelo Anthony should get ample shooting opportunities from the wings and give the Rockets an offense to be feared.

For the Rockets to finally get to NBA’s Promised Land by taking down the Golden State Warriors in the West, Carmelo Anthony must learn to put his sizable ego and defensive liabilities aside for the benefit of the team and play whatever role he is asked – especially during the playoffs.

He has done that before while a member of the US Olympic teams.  In his last appearance in the 2016 Olympics, Carmelo came off the bench as the team’s sixth man and became the first US Olympic men’s basketball player to win three gold medals.

So, will it be “Olympics Carmelo” or “Same old NBA Carmelo” this season in Houston?  If the Houston Rockets want to claim the NBA’s version of the gold medal this season, Dr. CP3 needs to perform a miracle heart transformation on his old pal soon.

 

 

Celtics and Rockets – Live by the 3…

What were the odds?

Leaving the office and heading into Memorial Day weekend, the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets both led their respective NBA Conference championships by a 3-2 margin.

Both teams would play Game 6 at the home court of their opponents’ (the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, respectively), and both teams would lead after one quarter.  However, the Celtics and Rockets both lost in Game 6, but the promise of home court for Game 7 awaited.

Not since 1979 would the NBA feature a Game 7 finale for both the Eastern and Western Conference crowns.

What were the odds of that happening?

On Sunday, the upstart young Boston Celtics took to the hardwood of the fabled Boston Garden sporting an undefeated 10-0 post-season record.  The passionate Boston fans are legendary as is the mysterious legend of the leprechaun who supposedly makes appearances during important games to help preserve victory for the C’s.

Meanwhile, Cleveland came into Boston wheezing from yet another close encounter in Game 6.  Despite the Cavaliers’ season of unpredictability, Game 7 in Boston marked a chance to end the Celtics’ home court mystique and go to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals.

On Monday in Houston, the hometown Rockets rode into town knowing that legions of Rockets’ Rowdies would be packed into the Toyota Center to help cheer their heroes on for a chance to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995.

The Rockets’ opponent, the Golden State Warriors, found themselves in the unfamiliar position of playing on the road in a Game 7 for the first time during their four year reign over the NBA’s Western Conference.

In the first half Sunday evening in Boston, the hometown Celtics, buoyed by their raucous fans, jumped to a first quarter and halftime advantage.

Ditto for the Houston Rockets on Monday night!

What were the odds that the two home teams, leading at halftime in Game 7, would both lose?

Shreek!  Time-out, Coach SwampSwami!

At this point, it is important to remember that the visiting teams in each of these Game 7’s featured veteran team leadership and NBA championship rings on their side.

For Cleveland, The LeBron James Scoring Machine has been nothing short of spectacular as he was seeking his eighth straight trip to an NBA Finals.  Out west, the defending champion Golden State Warriors’ sharpshooting trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant were gunning for their fourth straight Finals visit.

For the hometown Celtics and Rockets, the emotions run high when everything is on the line in a Game 7 in your own home arena.

The desire to try your hardest (sometimes too hard) in front of the frenzied home fans can actually work against a player in a pressurized winner-take-all game 7 situation.  The home crowd can cheer you on to extraordinary highs and, unfortunately, set the stage for some dramatic late-game lapses, too.

In the second half Sunday in Boston, the Celtics uncharacteristically hoisted up one three-point shot after another in an effort to stop the runaway freight train wearing #23 for Cleveland.  For a team geared to play hard-nosed defense and passing the ball to set-up their offense, the Celtics’ nervous flurry of three-pointers clanked, boinked, and fell out of the basket and left a confused hometown crowd scratching their heads wondering what was happening.

The Boston Celtics shot a pitiful 7 for 39 (18%) from behind the three-point line in Game 7 in a season-ending 87-79 loss to Cleveland.

Monday night in Houston, a similar scenario unfolded in the second half as the Rockets, who built their team on three-point shooting prowess, set a new NBA record for three-point shooting futility in their 101-92 epic fail second half crash and burn loss to Golden State.

The Rockets finished Game 7 shooting just 7 for 44 (16%) from three-point range.

Even worse, Houston missed an NBA record 27 consecutive three-point attempts from the second quarter through midway in the fourth.

According to one source, the statistical chances of Houston missing 27 consecutive treys were a phenomenal 1 in 72,000!  Unfortunately for the Rockets, that’s exactly what happened on Monday night.

It was almost enough to make James Harden go into the locker room and shave his beard off (but he didn’t).

Back to Boston, the Celtics’ 2-point shooting percentage in Game 7 was 22 out of 46 attempts for a respectable 48%.

In Houston on Monday, the Rockets’ 2-point shooting in Game 7 was an amazing 29 out of 46 for a sizzling 66%.

Despite the key performances from some veteran performers for both Cleveland and Golden State during Game 7, the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets will look at just one shooting statistic to remember why they aren’t playing against each other in the NBA Finals beginning Thursday night.

For both the Celtics and the Rockets in Game 7, seven was quite an unlucky number as it corresponded to the number of three-pointers that each team made.

Ice, Ice, Baby, indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Conf. Finals – 40 is the loneliest number

With the National Basketball Association’s conference finals in full swing, we are learning a lot more about the teams and the impact of their star players.

In ten games played during the NBA playoffs’ first and second rounds, some of the Association’s biggest names have lifted up stellar individual performances of 40 points or more.

LeBron James had three games with 40 or more points in the first round against Indiana.  He added 43 more points in Game 2 of the Cavs’ second round sweep of Toronto.

In Houston, the Rockets’ James Harden poured in 44 and 41 points during the team’s first game of series against Minnesota and Utah, respectively.

His running mate, Chris Paul, added 41 points in game 5 of the second round game versus Utah.

Anthony Davis of New Orleans shined with 47 points during the Pelicans’ round one sweep over Portland.

Oklahoma City’s reigning MVP guard, Russell Westbrook, tallied 45 and 46 points during the Thunder’s first round exit against Utah.

In all but Russell Westbrook’s 46 during Game 6 against Utah, the team with the player scoring 40 or more points was victorious.

That’s nine out of ten for an amazing 90% winning percentage.

Then, the Conference Finals happened.

After the first two games each of the Eastern Finals (Boston vs. Cleveland) and the Western Conference Finals (Houston vs. Golden State), superstars scoring 40 points or more are now 0-2 during this round.  Cleveland’s LeBron James put up 42 points during a Game 2 loss at Boston on Tuesday night, while James Harden danced his way to 41 points against Golden State but his Rockets dropped Game 1 at home.

What gives?

Better competition, better opposing coaches, and better teamwork!

For Cleveland, LeBron’s insistence that his teammates play up to his expectations has been a personal weakness for years.  When your teammates grow accustomed to playing second fiddle, it is hard to expect those same players to step-up when they have been excluded from the limelight for most of the season.

In Houston, James Harden put on a Game 1 performance against the Golden State Warriors worthy of making him a lock for a future “Dancing with the Stars” season.  He dribbled, danced, dodged, and stepped-back for twenty seconds of the 24-second clock on numerous occasions, while Golden State’s other 4 defenders were catching some rest watching the other four Rockets’ players stand around.

Despite comments by Houston’s coaching staff that nothing would change in Game 2, Harden seemed somewhat surprised in watching some of his more unheralded teammates rise to the occasion as the Rockets “other guys” ran the Warriors out of the Toyota Center during Wednesday night’s rout.

By this stage of the NBA playoffs, it’s nearly impossible to win with just one dominant player doing most of your team’s scoring.

The Boston Celtics have taken a 2-0 series lead against LeBron James and the Cavs with a superb effort from all of their young players, talented bench, and impressive coach, Brad Stevens.  The C’s rely on a different array of players every game, and their coach optimizes a different set of hot hands nearly every game.

The defending champion Golden State Warriors have the luxury of several star players, a deep and talented bench, and a never ending supply of energy on the court.  Game to game, it has been difficult to predict who will lead the Warriors in scoring.

For Cleveland and Houston to move into the NBA finals, it’s time that LeBron James and James Harden sacrifice some of their own scoring to get their teammates more involved.  The Rockets did just that in Game 2, while the Cavaliers need to scramble quickly as they face a 0-2 deficit entering Saturday night’s Game 3 in Cleveland.

The stats have shown that one talented superstar may be able to carry the day during the early rounds of the playoffs.  In these 2018 Conference Finals, though, forty point scoring nights are more likely to earn your team an early vacation in Cancun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 is the loneliest number – Basketball’s math problem

Have you noticed that basketball (at all levels) has morphed into a game where players are either going all the way to the hoop to score or settling for a three point shot?

I played basketball until my mid-30’s (not professionally, of course) and participated in the game prior to and after the advent of the three point shot.

Being a tad under 6′ tall myself, my lack of penetrating dribbling skills and size made shooting the basketball from the outside my personal paradise.  I was the guy who the coach would shout, “No, no…good shot!” when taking (for me) a relatively comfortable 20 footer from the outside during the two point era.

In those pre-3 days, the statistical evidence was on the side of my coaches.  Shots attempted closer to the hoop have a statistically higher percentage of success for most players.

As a result, the game of basketball into the 1960’s and most of the 70’s was dominated by the big men.  Talented giants like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Moses Malone were the marquee players of my day.  Since teams would generally try to force the ball into the basket for shots, the big men had the double advantage in both getting their own shots off and in grabbing missed shots for rebounds.

Then, the ABA happened.  In 1967, The American Basketball Association not only brought us the red, white, and blue basketball, it introduced the novelty called the three point shot.  The long-distance shot (which has meandered between 20 to 23 feet over the years) served to loosen-up defenses under the basket while allowing shorter players to showcase their sharpshooting skills from long distance.

Louie Dampier (all 6′ of him) obliterated the ABA with 794 made three pointers to lead the league in long-distance shooting over his career with that league.  I was a big fan of Louie’s long distance shooting skills with that red, white, and blue ball.  The ABA, for me, became quite fun to watch.

In 1976, the National Basketball Association gobbled-up the profitable ABA franchises (today’s San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, and Brooklyn Nets) and reluctantly incorporated the 3-point shot into its game.

At the time, the NBA was struggling with a number of serious problems (primarily drugs) and had sunk so low in the public eye that even key playoff games were relegated to late-night replays (after the local news) by CBS due to flagging viewership and fan interest.

The three point shot wasn’t exactly a rousing success in its NBA debut seasons.  As the graph at the top of the page shows, teams averaged a paltry three made 3-point baskets per game.

But then the NCAA added a three point shooting line to the college game.  High schools and pretty much everyone else quickly followed suit.

Younger players began to practice shooting the longer shots more as the rewards became more apparent.  And now, the coaches and players better understand the math involved with this evolution in the game.

If you can make 33% of your attempts at a 3-point basket, your team will score the same number of points as it does making 50% (an exceptionally high percentage) of its 2-point shot attempts.  However, if your team can convert three point shots at greater than a 33% clip, you will score more points than the team which doesn’t attempt any threes but shoots 50% from the field on 2-pointers.

It’s all about the math.

Over the past several years, we have seen the art of three point shooting evolve rapidly. Teams such as the Houston Rockets (owners of the best record in the NBA this season) are taking record number of three point attempts this season.

Houston attempts a whopping 42 three point field goals per game (connecting on 36% of them).  Last year’s NBA champion, Golden State, is hitting over 39% on its 3’s this season.

The NBA will end-up with 19 of its 30 teams shooting the most three point attempts in their franchise history.  Over 25,000 three pointers will be made in the NBA during the 2017-2018 season.

This year’s NCAA men’s division champions, Villanova, rode a wave of three point baskets as it obliterated foes during college basketball’s March Madness.

Is it worth it?

Apparently, yes.

But is basketball quickly becoming more boring to watch as teams eschew an open 15 foot jumper (for 2 points) in lieu of passing the ball to another player to attempt yet another long distance three pointer?

I think it is.  Let’s explore some ideas on how to bring back the two point shot in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBA – How to turn $85 Million into $1.65 Billion and get a 13% annual return!

On Monday, the Houston Rockets’ ownership (Les Alexander) acknowledged that the NBA team is now for sale.  Purchased 24 years ago for a mere $85 million, Forbes is estimating that the team will fetch about $1.65 billion (give or take a few hundred million, but who’s counting?).   Rockets’ owner Les Alexander is 74 years old, and he is ready to cash-out now after discussing the matter with his family.

Les Alexander has been a terrific owner and has given Houston sports fans their only two professional championship banners in 1994 and 1995.  According to the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets have posted the NBA’s fifth best record and second-most winning seasons during Alexander’s ownership period.  Les Alexander has regularly stepped-up to pay the price needed to secure All-Star basketball talent (such as Clyde Drexler, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and, of course, James Harden’s recent $40 million/year contract extension).  Having hired a successful executive and management team, Alexander has also uniquely bonded with the Rocket’s ticket-buying fans over the years by not letting his team intentionally lose games (aka “tank”) to rebuild.  Les and his family will now reap significant financial benefits from years of mostly solid decision-making and, importantly, building a successful fan base both in America’s fourth largest city and millions more living in China who became Rockets’ fans during Yao Ming’s nine years playing for the team.

Let’s be honest.  Les Alexander took a significant risk in purchasing an NBA franchise in the 1990’s when Michael Jordan’s best days were nearing an end.  The NBA’s television revenue, while improving, was nowhere near today’s amazing $2.7 billion annually paid by ESPN/ABC and TNT (which equates to $90 million/year for each of the 30 NBA teams).  During the 1990’s, NBA team owners depended a lot more on local television and radio broadcasting revenues as well as season and game-day ticket sales to pay the bills.  After his Houston Rockets won two consecutive NBA championships, Houston sports fans could survive a few leaner years by gazing into the rafters to see the two NBA championships with Captain Les Alexander at the helm.  The fans believed in their owner’s resolve to field a winning team nearly every season.

From a business perspective, major league sports franchise owners live in a very small neighborhood of their own.   Owners obviously need deep pockets to invest the kind of money required to buy a sports franchise, but, unlike your local neighborhood Subway sandwich franchise, very few of these professional sports league owners/investors ever lose significant money year-to-year.  In actuality, most sports franchise owners watch the value of their initial investment grow by leaps and bounds during their tenure.  The idea is to buy low, sell high, right?

Example – Let’s say the Houston Rockets simply broke even every year (they don’t – the Rockets turned an operating profit of $68 million in 2016).  If you take Les Alexander’s $85 million initial investment in 1993, it will have earned a nifty 13% annual interest rate, compounded annually over each of the 24 years, if the team sells for the estimated $1.65 billion this year.  Again, there were no guarantees in the 1990’s that the NBA’s television money would blossom or some upstart competitor (such as the American Basketball Association of the 1970’s) would try to compete for the professional basketball fans’ money.

So, timing is everything.  From paying the right price at the right time to starting your ownership era with two consecutive NBA championships, Les Alexander has been a very smart investor whose timing (along with bit of good luck) has worked exceptionally well for him and for the fans of the Houston Rockets.

Next???  Do you feel lucky…well, do ya?