By Brandon C. Williams
THE END OF AN ERA started to come in hand this past Monday when Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander announced he would put the franchise for sale after almost 24 years of overseeing the team.
Alexander bought the Rockets on July 30, 1993 and helped guide the team to consecutive NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. He was also the owner of the Houston Comets franchise that won four WNBA championships in ten years before Alexander sold them after the 2006 season. The move comes as a surprise after a busy offseason that saw the Rockets trade for All-Star point guard Chris Paul along with signing MVP runner-up James Harden to a four-year extension worth a reported record $228 million while also signing general manager Daryl Morey to an extension. In a bid to return to the NBA finals for the first time since 1995, Houston’s offseason efforts to improve a roster that won 55 games last season have also included ongoing talks about a potential move to add longtime New York Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony to the team, although the process of selling the team may impact that decision.
Regardless of who buys the Rockets, Alexander has more than made up for the $85 million investment it cost him three decades ago. The franchise was valued earlier this year by Forbes Magazine at $1.65 billion, making the Rockets the eighth most valuable franchise in the NBA.
Houston recorded 18 winning seasons under Alexander, second only to San Antonio Spurs since 1993. He was also the driving force behind getting the Rockets a new arena, which was achieved when Toyota Center opened in 2003.
Alexander has also been one of the Houston area’s biggest philanthropists over the years, contributing millions to countless charities and projects. Perhaps his most memorable charity work came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when he organized HopeFest, a three-day event held at Toyota Center that helped thousands of families displaced after the devastating storm.
There is no timetable on when Alexander will sell the Rockets, and it is expected that the potential new owner will keep the franchise in Houston.