September 25, 2023

Hours before he was about to take a private flight to compete in the National Basketball Association’s top event, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry was fortunate enough to land its first championship in decades.

Lasry’s team will play the Phoenix Suns in their first game on Tuesday in the 2021 NBA Finals, and the Bucks will continue to need good luck to win their first title since the 1971 squad around franchise star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is imprisoned with a maximum contract was.

The group of owners, including Wes Edens and hedge fund manager Jamie Dinan, doubled the value of the Bucks. In 2014, Lasry got involved to buy the franchise for $ 550 million. According to Forbes, the team is now worth $ 1.62 billion.

“Our focus was pretty simple – build a great organization,” Lasry said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday morning just before boarding his private flight for Game 1. “If you do that, it will work. But you need great organization. and you have to build it. “

But to conquer the NBA, according to Lasry, the Bucks needed a little luck, including at the health department. Antetokounmpo is still recovering from hyperextension of his left knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final against the Atlanta Hawks. The injury could affect his status to begin the NBA finals.

When asked if Antetokounmpo would play in Game 1 on Tuesday, Lasry was unsure, saying the player and medical staff would have the final say.

“I hope to see him,” added Lasry. “I think he’ll be on the show.”

Scale the summit

Lasry also reflected on his beginnings as a sports owner. He took the opportunity at an NBA club on a smaller market, secured a new arena, renamed the team and completed the Deer District, a huge real estate project that surrounds the team’s complex.

“You never really appreciate it until you go through it,” said Lasry of the path to leading a sports team. “It’s hard to climb this peak. And also to get there [the NBA Finals], you have to be lucky. It takes an extraordinary amount of hard work, but it also takes a little luck. “

Lasry remembered the old Bucks practice site, which had terrible roof leaks, forcing staff to put buckets on the sites on rainy days. “It was an old two-seat gym,” he said.

The Bucks got lucky and moved to a new $ 31 million site in 2017. But having Antetokounmpo on the list was ultimate luck.

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks

Gregory Shamus | Getty Images

The only season that was missing a postseason appearance under Lasry’s ownership group came in the 2015/16 season. Since then, and under Antetokounmpo’s rule, the Bucks have made the playoffs for the past five seasons, including two appearances in the conference finals. In December, the Bucks signed Antetokounmpo for a five-year extension worth more than $ 228 million.

“Nobody knew how good he was going to be,” said Lasry, adding that he had only watched the replay of Antetokounmpo’s injury once. He said the team was relieved when doctors told him he didn’t need an operation.

“We were really lucky that Giannis had no structural damage,” said Lasry before describing the difficulty of winning in the NBA. He laughed as he thought of Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets, when Kevin Durant nearly lost the Bucks’ luck.

“You end up finding it’s always a minor thing,” he added. “I think back to the Sixers and Raptors – that Kawhi [Leonard] The shot jumps, and then it goes in – it’s the same. I think you need the hard work, but I think you need some luck on your side. “

Khris Middleton # 22 of the Milwaukee Bucks holds the Eastern Conference Finals Trophy after beating the Atlanta Hawks during game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on July 3, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

David Dow | National Basketball Federation | Getty Images

This business is different

Lasry is Chairman and CEO of Avenue Capital Management, a private equity firm. His business background is on Wall Street, but as a sports owner he had to ditch what he’d learned in the financial sector.

“You deal with it differently,” said Lasry of running a sports team. “You have to forget everything you’ve done as a business owner because what you’re doing here is all you can to enable your team to win. You spend money while trying to make money here in the business.

“If you want to win, you have to spend money at the end of the day,” continued Lasry. “For us we’re going to be in the luxury tax and we acknowledge that, but the goal is to try and win a championship. The only way to get there is to spend money on the players that you are believe they will. ” Help.”

Lasry cited “mental hardship” as the reason the franchise endured the last two NBA seasons that were affected by the pandemic and social unrest.

“It was hard for everyone,” he said. “We lost quite a lot of money for us as an organization, but we felt that we would make up for it over time. But the focus was that it is hard for everyone, so let’s do what we can and try to help as many people as we can go forward. “

As his flight time approached, Lasry admitted that he was a little nervous as Game 1 approached, but added that he isn’t worried about things that I can’t control. I’m not the one who shoots the ball the same. But I think they’re sick of hearing it. “

If the Bucks succeed, it could also put Lasry’s front office workers further into the spotlight.

The Bucks made Jon Horst General Manager in 2017 and hired the esteemed manager Milt Newton as Assistant GM. The NBA needs improvement on the diversity front, especially on the basketball operation side, and Lasry said Newton deserves another opportunity. Newton had a brief GM stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Milt is great,” said Lasry. “He’s a smart gentleman and he did a great job for us. I hope he has the opportunity to become GM again.”

The Bucks have four more games to go and Lasry becomes the final NBA owner. He would be the first to win a title among fellow newcomers, including Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Josh Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Joe Tsai, owner of Nets. All of these men have bought teams in the past decade. And Lasry would also lift the NBA’s Larry O’Brien trophy in front of longtime Suns owner Robert Sarver, as the club is also looking to win its first title.

“It’s hard,” Lasry repeated when talking about building a championship team. “You have to take the risk – hope that people want to participate in what you are building.”

And good luck on the way.