Chris Wilson and I are quickly developing a Geoff Calkins-Ronald Tillery relationship. Money. -djturtleface
Michael Heisley is a billionaire. That's billion, with a "B." Basically, if he wanted to swim around in a pit of money like Scrooge McDuck, he has both the eccentric nature and financial wherewithal to pull that off. He is the 655th richest person in the world according to Forbes Magazine with a net worth of $1.5 billion dollars.
All of this might lead a man to have a healthy bit of ego. I think Michael Heisley would be the first to admit, yes, he does have an ego, and quite frankly, you have no right to comment on how big it is.
Ego is not necessarily a bad thing. Heisley made his fortune on buying distressed assets, improving them, and flipping them for a profit. This takes a massive amount of leadership and direction from the new owner; everything is redone from the ground up and that takes strong input from the top.
However, as any halfway knowledgeable sports fan knows, that's not exactly how professional sports works. In order to be successful, a team's owner needs to not micromanage and let people who have the unique set of skills to run and coach a basketball team do their job. Can anyone name the owner of the Spurs off the top of their head? The Celtics? The Magic? These owners still spend money on their franchises, but get out of the way only to watch them win.
Heisley's ego has come into direct conflict with fans of his franchise. I don't know a single fan who hasn't wanted to hit their head against the wall in the past 13 months. If Memphis had more Grizzlies fans, the structural integrity of the entire city might be at risk. With that said, over the jump let's have a countdown of the five most egregious Heisley ego-trips since the end of the 2008-09 season.
5) Arguing with Arn: Xavier Henry's (and Greivis Vasquez's) contract
Rudy Gay was asked in an interview on the Gary Parrish Show this week how important it is to play in Summer League. He stated something to the effect of "It's really important, I missed games my first year and it hurt me, and I wish Xavier was playing."
Rather than gaining valuable experience and bonding with his teammates, Xavier Henry, the Grizzlies' latest lottery pick, is sitting out summer league because of a contract dispute. I know what you're thinking, and the answer is yes, NBA first round contracts are guaranteed and scaled according to where a player was drafted. But remember, this is Michael Heisley's ego we're dealing with. He can and did still mess it up.
Heisley has told Henry's agent Arn Tellum that he is only willing to pay 100% of the rookie contact. Sounds normal, right? Wrong. Last year all 30 first rounders are received 120% of their rookie scale, as is customary and accepted throughout the NBA, including Thabeet and Demarre Carroll. So, in order to save under a million bucks on a $58 million payroll, Henry isn't getting the chance to become a better basketball player. And is probably pissed.
As noamschiller tweeted, "The Memphis Grizzlies have saved $800K so they can turn Ronnie Brewer and Xavier Henry into Tony Allen and a very angry Xavier Henry."
4) Cowering to Cuban: Selling a 2010 first rounder
Heisley is often like the kid at the lunch table who really wants to be accepted, so he craps on his real friends (the fans) only to suck up to the cool kid (Mark Cuban). He can only be cool by association, by having other owners "respect" him and tell him he's doing a great job.
The Grizzlies had the 25th pick in this year's first round, via Denver. Heisely then turned around and sold that pick to Mark Cuban for $3 million. When asked if he was concerned about giving up a first round pick to a division rival, Heisley responded with "There were several teams offering the same terms. I chose Dallas because Mark is a friend. It doesn't concern me that he is in our Division." Thanks Mike!
3) Rolling with Rudy: Gay cashes in
Rudy Gay turned down a 5 year, $50 million dollar offer in the summer of 2009. This made sense for Rudy, as he thought he could get more the following summer on the open market. This also made sense for the Grizzlies, as they didn't want to overpay Rudy, and they would still have the option of a sign-and-trade the following summer. Everything makes sense, right? Of course not.
Before the 09-10 season even ended, Heisley came out and stated that the Grizzlies will resign Rudy "no matter what." Despite the fact that logical media members, fans, and oh, everyone, knew that a long term max deal could very well hamstring the franchise financially, Heisley insisted on offering a $83 million dollar near-max on the second day of free agency. That's about $12 million more than any othe team could have paid him, and the Grizzlies had the right to match.
But we kept Rudy Gay, by god, and that's what Michael Heisley said he would do.
2) Aiming for Allen: The Grizzlies give a contract to Allen Iverson
It became known late in the summer of 2009 that the Grizzlies didn't plan to extend the qualifying offer to Hakim Warrick. This wasn't entirely out of the norm, but Warrick did give the team valuable scoring off the bench, was something of a fan and clubhouse favorite, and he would have cost the Grizzlies only about $3 million.
Around a month later, after the worst season of his career and every other NBA team had turned him down, Allen Iverson was introduced to the Grizzlies on a one-year, $3 million dollar contract.
When asked why the Grizzlies picked up Iverson despite a glut of backcourt players, among other reasons, Heisley stated how Iverson had gone to Georgetown and was outstanding there (Heisley is a Georgetown graduate) and his wife was a huge Allen Iverson fan.
Rather than discussing the Hindenburg-level disaster that was the Answer, let's go easy for Mrs. Heisley's sake.
1) The Terrible Tanzanian: Grizzlies draft Hasheem Thabeet with the second pick.
I remember sitting at a draft lottery party at Buffalo Wild Wings (only in Memphis) and how excited I was when the Grizzlies were not in their slated spot. I remember being disappointed we didn't get the number one pick, but still being really excited. The number two pick could change a franchise!
I leave you with this video as perfect evidence of Michael Heisley's ego:
- Chris Wilson