The NBA has had its fair share of popular and sometimes eccentric team owners. There's Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks. We had Jerry Buss, owner of the Lakers, and even the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, owner of the Hornets.
I bet not too many people have heard of owners Ozzie and Daniel Silna. This may be because they never actually owned an NBA team, yet, they've made over $800 million as owners.
How could this happen, you ask? Sit back, grab your reading glasses, and relax as I tell you the story of how the Silna brothers became the smartest NBA team owners without owning an NBA team.
Ozzie And Daniel Silna
The Silna brothers were born in New Jersey. They were the sons of Latvian immigrants who came to America in the 1930s.
The brothers became business owners when they became manufacturers of polyester. This business turned out to be massively successful when the price of polyester skyrocketed in the 1960s.
The Silna brothers had dreams of becoming owners of an NBA team. So, in 1974, they offered to buy the Detroit Pistons. Unfortunately for the brothers, their offer was not accepted.
American Basketball Association
The National Basketball Association started in 1946, and it was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). On August 3, 1949, the BAA merged with another basketball league, the National Basketball League (NBL), and they changed its name to the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In 1967, another basketball league was born, and they wanted to dominate the struggling NBA. This league was known as the American Basketball Association (ABA).
The ABA made some changes to stand out from the NBA, including adding a three-point line, and they were stylish, playing with the iconic red, white, and blue basketball.
The ABA was extremely popular amongst fans, but the league struggled financially thanks to a lack of television contracts. The league would eventually fold in 1976, with four teams merging with the NBA (New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs).
Two years before the end of the ABA, Ozzie and Daniel Silna decided to become ABA team owners. The Silna brothers bought the struggling Carolina Cougars for $1 million.
This deal to become the Cougars' owners would go down in history as the greatest sports team purchase of all time.
The Silna Brothers Strike Ownership Gold
After buying the Carolina Cougars, the initial view looked gloomy for Ozzie and Daniel Silna. As mentioned earlier, the team was struggling, and so was the league.
The NBA wanted to end their rivals, so they allowed four teams to merge, and the NBA would buy out the remaining teams to have them disbanded.
At the end of the ABA, only seven teams remained, with the Cougars being one of them. The Silna brothers were hoping the NBA would accept their team in the merger, and their dreams of becoming owners of an NBA team would come true.
The Silna brothers decided to move the Cougars from Carolina to St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was the biggest city without an NBA team, so they figured this would make the NBA want to take their team.
The brothers also changed their team's name to the Spirits of St. Louis. Even with these changes, the Silna brother's team was not one of the four teams selected to merge into the NBA.
So, the Silna brothers would have to settle with a buyout with the NBA. But how much should they take?
One of the teams not selected, the Kentucky Colonels, accepted $3 million from the NBA to disband.
The Silna brothers didn't want to settle for $3 million. They wanted more, and they decided to hold out. The NBA desperately wanted to rid themselves of the remaining ABA teams, so they could go back to focusing on their league.
So, the Silna brothers negotiated with the NBA and settled for what would be the greatest deal in NBA history. The Silna brothers would take $2 million upfront in cash, and they would also receive part of the yearly TV broadcast revenue the NBA would receive.
The Silna brothers negotiated with the NBA to receive 1/7th of the TV money the four selected ABA teams would get by joining the NBA. On top of this, the deal would go on “for as long as the NBA or its successors continues in its existence.”
At first, the Silna brothers collected $200k checks annually. This wasn't bad, but things would get much better for the brothers from New Jersey.
At the time the ABA merged with the NBA, nobody could have predicted the rise in popularity the NBA would see in the 1980s and 1990s. Because of this popularity boost, the TV deals with the NBA became much larger.
By 2014, the Silna brothers were still collecting checks from the NBA, and this time, the checks were worth $20 million. The Silna brothers have made over $300 million from 1976 to 2014... Not a bad business deal at all.
The checks stopped after 2014 because when the NBA went to renew their TV deals; they decided to settle with the Silna brothers. The brothers settled with the NBA to end their original deal for $500 million.
So, the Silna brothers, who never technically owned an NBA team, made $800 million as “team owners” from the NBA.
On top of Ozzie and Daniel Silna making out from the deal, their lawyer, a man named Donald Schupak, also made out pretty well. Schupak negotiated 10% of the deal to himself, which has turned into $80 million.
This shows to always believe in yourself and don't settle for something just because others are. Stick to your guns, fight for what you want, and you never know; maybe it'll turn into $800 million.
Credit for the story: Joe Pompliano