Donuts: NBA Owners As 'Revenge Of The Nerds'?
Posted Oct 26, 2011

As a coincidental counteraction to Bill Simmons’ assertion that the negotiating NBA players possess ‘limited intellectual capital,’ player-turned-exec Rex Chapman says the meanie owners are exacting payback for teenage 'dodgeball beatings.' Is that what this all is? ‘Revenge of the Nerds’? Let's dig into the jock backgrounds of some of the owners, the supposed Negotiating Nebbishes.

Nerdy owners? The world is more complex than Rex Chapman's Twitter feed suggests.

Dumb jocks? The world is more complex than Bill Simmons' "solution'' column suggests.

Yes, yes, Simmons is obliged to paint in broad strokes here as he's trying to create a story arc. (In his defense, there is nothing "racist'' about his proclamation; the owners' side IS more educated and more experienced in business dealings and IS thus in possession of more "intellectual capital'' ... which doesn't need to mean "innate intelligence,'' only "education and experience.'')

And yes, yes, Chapman -- with a resume that includes careers as an NBA player and NBA executive -- might be speaking in funny shorthand when he tweets that "League owners possess much resolve. They've vowed athlete-payback 4ever. Branded into memory are their yrs of daily P.E. dodgeball beatings."

And there's the inevitable boil-down: Kevin Garnett is the players’ grim reaper and Paul Allen is the owners’ grim reaper and look at the contrasts there! KG is a dumb jock! Paul Allen is a rich nerd! In fact, all the owners are rich nerds!

Chapman in particular crafts some easy imagery here. The athlete is young and assertive and robust and he rules the school. The owner is old and dorky and uncool and his only way into the "in crowd'' is to buy his way in.


But wait a minute. ... Let's do the research on the athletic backgrounds of assorted NBA owners. I've found doing do can be a bit of a challenge. Oh, the fact that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban played college rugby at Indiana (complete with the embarrassingly funny R-rated photos!) and is a Dallas pickup-hoops institution, we all know that. But it seems that for most of the NBA owners being portrayed as the Negotiation Nebbishes, their official bios are too stuffed with actual accomplishments – you know, being the sons of immigrants, graduating from Harvard, building billion-dollar businesses, devoting themselves to charitable causes – to bother much with teenage blocking and tackling.

So let’s go down to the end of the bench to examine whether any of these supposed wedgie-receiving losers could ever in their decrepit existences chew gum and make money hand-over-fist at the same time. …

Glen Taylor, Minnesota Timberwolves Very much the anti-Garnett, right? When KG left Minnesota, Taylor is the idiot he left in his wake, a rich bastard who couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to be committed to being an athlete.


Glen Taylor lived on a farm in Minnesota. As a young boy, he played "work up" basketball against his brothers, the family loving the sport so much they played during Minnesota winters by putting a hoop inside of the barn. Once Glen got to Comfrey High, he played football in fall, basketball in winter, and both track and baseball in spring.

"Dorky'' Glen Taylor was a four-sport letterman, the quarterback on the football team, the point guard on the basketball team and a Merit Scholar as the class salutatorian, too.

"I loved sports," Taylor said. "It was a really nice life."

The Maloof Brothers, Sacramento Kings -- Gavin Maloof was a standout high school football player in New Mexico and moved on to play at the fine Trinity University program in San Antonio.

Gavin was good. Joe Maloof was better.


Joe Maloof was the MVP of his high school basketball team at Lawrenceville Prep School in New Jersey – and basketball was only his second sport. He was truly a star football player and earned two college letters as a defensive back at the University of New Mexico.

By the way, the third Maloof brother, George Jr., was a cornerback at UNLV. His locker mate was Suge Knight, who would go on to co-found Death Row Records.

Peter Holt, San Antonio Spurs -- Was Holt a jock? I’m not sure; sounds like he was more of a “greaser,’’ but it also sounds like Rex Chapman’s dodgeball pals didn’t much mess with him.

''What do you want to know?’’ Holt told the New York Times. “I barely made it out of high school, tried to get into college, didn't even register for college, lived at the frat house, got drunk, had a damn good time and ended up in Vietnam. What else?''

Oh yeah, Vietman. Holt is the great-grandson of the founder of Caterpillar Inc. Young Peter could’ve probably avoided military service, but instead he won a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars for Valor and a Purple Heart for wounds received. And by all accounts, he never told any of his mates in Vietnam that he was the heir to the CAT fortune.

Maybe Rich DeVos of the Orlando Magic could’ve blocked and tackled people, but at a young age he committed to serving in military in World War II in the United States Army Air Corps. Same with the late Mel Simon of the Indiana Pacers, who became a Hoosier because he was stationed in Indiana during a stint in the Army.

There was a lot of that going around for some of these fellas a few generations ago, you know. There wasn't necessarily time to establish oneself as a good rebounder or whatever when you were busy trying to protect Democracy.

Mikhail Prokhorov, New Jersey Nets -- From a NY Times profile on the 6-8 Russian: “Prokhorov is relatively young, charming, tall, athletic and adventurous, a modern-day renaissance man with an air of cold war mystique. He will be one of the league's youngest owners. He is also an expert skier, a competitive basketball player and an avid kickboxer.’’

Here’s video of Mikhail pulling off some “gnarly’’ jet-ski stunts.

I doubt Mikhail was “bullied by the jocks in high school.’’ I doubt Nets minority owner Jay-Z was the victim of jock bullies, too.


Brian L. Roberts, part of the group passing the Philadelphia Sixers torch along. Roberts was an All-American in squash. He earned a gold medal with the U.S. squash team in 2005. Roberts and Comcast are now out; the new group includes as a minority owner Will Smith, The Fresh Prince, who can ball.

Ted Leonsis, Washington Wizards -- Leonis was born to Greek-American parents in Brooklyn.

“When I was a kid in Brooklyn, I would go to the park after school until 7 at night, when my parents got home from work,’’ Leonis said in an interview. “At the park, if you turned right, there were courts and ball fields. All the kids who played there graduated from high school and went on to have productive lives. But a hundred yards to the left, the kids were drinking, smoking pot and beginning to do hard drugs. Those kids usually ended up in prison or dead.”

OK, so Leonis stayed on the right side of the Brooklyn tracks and played a little ball. Is that it?

No, he was a quarterback at Brooklyn Tech, where the guys wanted to play badly enough that the inner-city field was on the roof of the school.

Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers -- The son of Jewish immigrants, Sterling found his way in LA in part by participating on the Theodore Roosevelt High School gymnastics team, where the school's class president made the LA city finals.

Peter Guber and Joe Lacob, Golden State Warriors -- Peter's parents were immigrants. He played intramural football at Syracuse.

Lacob's sporting life? He is an avid golfer and has participated in the AT&T National Pro-Am. He plays in a regular pick-up basketball game twice weekly and has done so for over 30 years.

Greg Miller, Utah Jazz -- Miller has six kids, and he wants them to experience the things he loves. He recently detailed some travel plans with the family.

“Maybe go down to Moab and do some more four-wheeling, maybe run a river, we're going to go to a race,’’ Miller said. “We bought a race in an Indy car at a fundraising event, so we're going to go to California and ride in a two-seater Indy car.’’

In a sense, Miller is like Nick Arison of the Miami Heat. Nick is being groomed to take over for his dad, Micky, who took over for his dad, Ted. The Arisons have for decades been one of the wealthiest families in the world; I doubt the kids have had much Miami Beach sand kicked in their faces. Young Nick, in fact, has Mike Krzyzewski among his references. Nick, you see, served four years as the Duke team manager and and as the Olympic Team USA manager.


Dr. Jerry Buss, Los Angeles Lakers -- Buss is 77, so he fuels his competitive efforts into Poker. His best finishes include third in the 1991 World Series of Poker and second in the 2003 World Poker Tour Freeroll invitational.

As a young man, Buss grew up an outdoorsman in Kemmerer, Wyoming, where he loved hiking, hunting and fishing.

Richard Peddie, Toronto Raptors -- He’s the outgoing CEO who has overseen the Maple Leafs and the Raptors. He’s a Canadian, so surely …

“I love the sport,’’ Peddie has said about basketball, “and I was a gym rat, but I did not play high school or college ball. I played commercial ball, the industrial leagues, when I moved to Toronto. I actually got better as I got older but I was never very good.’’

Wyc Grousbeck, Boston Celtics -- Grousbeck graduated from Princeton University, where he rowed on an undefeated lightweight crew team that won a national championship.

Alex Meruelo, Atlanta Hawks -- The first Hispanic owner in NBA history is the son of Cuban immigrants and yes he was a good basketball player. He became a starter his junior year at Don Bosco Technical Institute, a Catholic high school in Rosemead, Calif.

Michael Jordan, Charlotte Bobcats -- Played some basketball.

Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks -- Successful rugby player, working every day to be a better basketball player.

Tom Gores, Detroit Pistons -- Born in Israel, Gores moved to Michigan and somehow adapted. While a student at Genesee High School, Gores played defensive back in football, middle infielder in baseball and guard in basketball.

Stan and Josh Kroenke, Denver Nuggets -- Was Stan from a sports family? He’s from the St. Louis area and his full name is Enos Stanley Kroenke; yeah, his parents named him after Cardinals heroes Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.

Cripes. His name is “Enos.’’

Young Kroenke was a top scholar in high school but everyone knew him as a basketball player; he scored 33 points in a game, a school record that stood for 10 years.

Stan is passing the ownership torch to Josh Kroenke – full name “Josh Walton Kroenke.’’ Josh, a tad over 30, is the billionaire heir to Wal-Mart.


So he’s a nerd … right?

"Honestly, I think I'm a huge nerd," Kroenke told the Denver Post. … to which a Kroenke buddy responded: "At the end of the day, it's hard to call him a nerd when he's a good-looking, 6-4 rich kid who can hoop."

Kroenke was among the top 50 basketball players in the country as a high school senior and received numerous scholarship offers before attending Missouri, where he earned Academic All-Big 12 First Team honors.

You know, it makes it easier to fake our way through the story of the lockout if we paint one side as villains and the other side as victims, or if we portray the rich guys as dopes and the richer guys as dicks. But oftentimes, just as jocks can be smart, brains can be athletic.

If you are reading this, you likely went through high school yourself. So even if Simmons and Chapman have somehow forgotten this, or maybe are just kidding, you get it ... right?

There is plenty to be angry about when it comes to the lockout and there are almost infinite targets for our ire. But "good'' and "bad'' and "dumb jocks'' and "rich nerds''? We do a disservice to their intellects and their talents – and to our own – when we allow the negotiating principals to be characterized as one-dimensional cardboard cutouts.

Dallas Mavericks products in The Store! YES. WE. DID.

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