Sports

Jay-Z Ends His Infinitesimal Reign as Nets Owner


Jay Z at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn

Photograph by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jay Z at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn

Jay-Z is officially passing the Brooklyn basketball torch and selling his ownership stake in the Nets to Jason Kidd, the team’s coach.

The sale, reported by the New York Post, brings the story of the ownership stake full circle: It was Jason Kidd, formerly a player on the team, who first suggested that Jay-Z buy part of the Nets. And it’s too bad, in a way, because Jay-Z was the perfect man to own a small vanity stake in a Brooklyn sports franchise. In his hands, the investment was a real-life version of the rich-man fantasies rappers have been spinning in songs for years. Sure, Tash and Raekwon can joke about buying sports teams, but Jay-Z actually did it.

Much has been made of how Jay-Z’s stake was mostly for show. Sure, he may not have been able to fire players—sorry Kanye—but the rapper still got involved and played his part. He had a hand in what uniforms the teams wore, what music played in the arena, and even the flatware used in the luxury suites. It was great for him, and great for the Nets as well.

“He is it,” Bruce Ratner, the real-estate developer behind the Barclay’s Arena, told the New York Times. “He is us. He is how people are going to see that place.”

Jay-Z is giving all this up because he’d prefer to be an agent to pro athletes than their boss. But once the ownership stake passes from him to Kidd, it is like a pumpkin at 12:01 a.m. Without Jay-Z, his intriguing portion of the team reverts to being just 1/15 of a percent of New York’s second-favorite NBA team, worth about $500,000. There are dozens of guys on Wall Street who could buy that the way normal folks buy a cup of coffee. Even a few other rappers could pony up a half million.

Kidd wasn’t the only one angling for the prize. Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit and a Brooklyn native, tweeted that he’d like to buy Jay-Z’s share of the team. According to Ohanian, the message got him a meeting with the team and sparked the hope of further implantation of the hip tech set into popular mythology. But it wasn’t to be.

Of course, Kidd will be more than another faceless investor. He’ll have the distinction of owning a team he also coaches and once played for. But unlike Jay-Z’s symbolic ownership, Kidd’s stake has a downside. Everyone loves a good celebrity story—but the fans in about 24 cities with an NBA team end up hating the man doing the coaching at the end of each season. The situation could get awkward quickly. Let’s just hope this goes better than that whole Michael Jordan thing.

Brustein is a writer for Businessweek.com in New York.

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