So now it boils down to a test of billionaires.
Will they be loyal to one of their own, or loyal to the league, the players, the fans and - inevitably, the bottom line?
Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday that the NBA was banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life because of racist comments. Silver said he would urge the owners to force Sterling to sell the team.
Sterling ranks No. 328 among U.S. billionaires ranked by Forbes. His estimated wealth of $1.9 billion stems not only from the team, but from his ownership of apartments throughout L.A.
The interactive map above shows other billionaire NBA owners.
Three-fourths of the owners of the 30 NBA teams would have to agree in order for the league to force a sale. Half of the teams are owned by billionaires.
While the majority of teams have issued statements in support of Silver’s action, it remains to be seen whether they’ll push a sale.
Moments before Silver’s press conference, Sterling, the longest-standing owner in the NBA, told a Fox News reporter he had no intention of selling.
Note: Beyond money and basketball, we don’t find a lot of overlap among billionaire owners in the Muckety database.
Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert are both participants in Giving Pledge, in which wealthy individuals commit to giving away the bulk of their fortunes.
Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and L.A. Lakers part-owner Edward Roski are both trustees of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.