“When I bought the team I promised a great championship contender and the team was broken,” Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov proclaimed at least Thursday’s press conference. “So I think for the time being, on this page, I have done what I can and now it’s time for the team to do the rest.”
What Prokhorov has done is spend and spend big. The Brooklyn Nets payroll is now at $101.9 million with an expected luxury tax bill between $80-$85 million. That’s a luxury tax bill larger than the total salaries of every NBA team’s payroll except for the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks.
Such huge spending certainly puts the Nets in contention with the Heat for a NBA championship, but it also comes with a huge risk. According to Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes, Prokhorov stands to lose as much as $50 million this season as revenues are almost certain not to keep up with spending.
Prokhorov doesn’t seem to care. “Frankly speaking, I’ll do whatever to reach a championship here in Brooklyn,” he said. “For me it was the goal when I bought the team. To me there is only one thing, a championship.”
He’s not completely nuts though. During the press conference, he also explained how he is trying to grow the value of the franchise and the best way to do that, and to catch up with the Knicks, is by winning a championship. If you look at what George Steinbrenner did with the Yankees, he bought the team for $10 million back in the 1970’s and eventually turned it into a billion dollar franchise because it won. Along the way there were certainly years where the Yankees failed to turn a profit or lost money and Prokhorov is taking a similar strategy.
This plan can seriously backfire if the Nets don’t win though. The 2002-03 Portland Trail Blazers went for broke in an attempt to win a championship when they spend $157 million between payroll and tax. They were eventually bounced in the first round of the playoffs though and the team’s arena entered bankruptcy in 2004.
So for though, Prokhorov’s plan is working. Nets attendance increased 53 percent last season, from last place in the NBA to 16th, even as ticket prices increased 50 percent. Television ratings spiked 210 percent as the franchise value climbed along with them. The team’s merchandise sales ranked fourth in the league last year as well.