What Nets Sale Means For LeBron

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - September 30, 2009
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Mikhail Prokhorov: from Russia with billions

So just how good is LeBron’s Russian?

The former Bron Bron has been coy about his plans after 2010, when he can enter the lucrative world of free agency. Future financial concerns won’t be a problem whether he stays in Cleveland or goes elsewhere, but the juicy gossip for more than a year has James joining his friend and Nets minority owner Jay Z at the team’s new crib in Brooklyn.

Now all that may be up in the air. Or is it?

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has come to a basic agreement to purchase 80 percent of the team and pay 45 percent of construction costs for the new arena just a Troika step from the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach.

Commissioner David Stern has already given his blessing, so barring a sudden scandal or drop in the Russian metals market, the team is his. But with the possible ouster of Jay Z from Nets ownership would the sudden loss of street cred have an effect on James’ decision to rescue the borough from the funk it’s been in since the Dodgers started going back to Cali strictly for the weather in 1957?


 

Nyet!

Prokhorov is Eastern Bloc hip-hop to the bone. This guy is Crystal by the case with caviar as a condiment for use at Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles. The man lost 51 percent of his cash in the financial mess yet remains the biggest hustler on the Siberian market. The 6-foot, 6-inch former high school baller is a regular on the European bling scene and doesn’t travel anywhere without a tricked-out jet and a posse of high-heel talent. The man was even gansta enough to be questioned about his possible involvement in the business of supplying some socially aggressive women and hand-held gardening tools for his well-healed and promiscuous friends at an upscale French resort. And why not? Russians, like Brooklynites, love to party like it’s 1897, 1903 and 1895 - the respective birthdates of Brooklyn-born Moe, Curly and Shemp Howard.

In 989, Vladimir I chose Greek Orthodoxy as the official state religion over Islam in part because he figured his people would-n’t want to live under a religious system that bans the pleasure of gin and juice.

While the sale has even received the endorsement of Dallas Maverick publicity hound Mark Cuban, not everybody is in the big Ruskie’s camp. A member of the Russian legislature is calling the purchase unpatriotic. Another says his stated claim of using the club to help improve the game in Russia is unlikely, pointing out that Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the Chelsea Football Club did nothing to improve soccer in the fatherland.

Residents of the former Soviet Union have always put a premium on athletic achievement as a way to promote national superiority. Having the nation’s richest person invest in a league outside of it’s frigid boundaries - and even worse in the U.S. - is tantamount to becoming a Kievan Rus version of John Walker, the former U.S. Navy submariner who spent 17 years selling secrets to the KGB.


So what does this mean for LeBron?

Nothing, unless one believes that a czar’s ransom of rubles, Big Apple exposure and being the international face of the NBA from Lisbon to Dezhnevo is enough to turn a person’s head.

Prokhorov didn’t build his reputation with cautious moves and by hoarding cash. The upwardly mobile resident of Moscow, the Riviera, St. Tropez and the French ski resort of Courchevel are not likely to worry about luxury taxes getting in the way of expanding his market. Such modest fees are acceptable when the goal is to win in the U.S., reinvent the game in his native land and turn the Nets into an international moneymaker.

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