The Rockets owner who brought back-to-back NBA Championships to Houston is selling the team, CEO Tad Brown announced Monday.
The announcement sent shock waves through the city.
“It’s been my great joy and honor to own the Houston Rockets for the past 24 years,” Alexander said in a written statement. “I’ve had the incredible opportunity to witness true greatness through the players and coaches who have won championships for the city, been named to All-Star and All-NBA teams, enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and done so much for our franchise and our fans."
Alexander is committed to selling the team to someone who will keep it in Houston, according to Brown.
Brown said he thinks Alexander is tired and felt the time had come to move on.
"It's a grind. Even now where things are racheted up more with expectations and the ability to go deep and compete it's been tough," Brown said. "He had a real conversation with his family and he just decided it was time to make another change in his life."
Most of the players, including Paul and Harden, were told about Alexander's decision before it was announced publicly.
"The guys love him. They love Leslie," Brown said. "He's a person who's always 120 percent with them, giving them whatever they need to be successful, and they feel that."
Losing Alexander as an owner, will also be a "sea change" for the NBA.
"He's one of the longest-tenured owners, one of the most successful and certainly one of the most influential," Brown said.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement Monday:
"Leslie Alexander is a true competitor who always searched for the right move to make his teams better. Under his ownership, he created a culture of excellence with strong management that attracted Hall of Famers, All-Stars and coaching giants and brought two NBA championships and four WNBA titles to Houston. Well-respected around the league, he has been an active and influential owner whose vision helped to grow the game globally, especially in China. Moreover, his philanthropy speaks just as powerfully as his ownership, with local libraries, women's shelters and homeless shelters all benefitting from his generosity."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following statement regarding Leslie Alexander announcing his intention to sell Houston Rockets pic.twitter.com/CXUdTzKprp— NBA (@NBA) July 17, 2017
In “Clutch City,” Alexander is more than a pro basketball team owner. Alexander made America’s most diverse city feel like family.
“He brought all of Houston together. Everybody was happy," said "Severe" Amir Borhani, a life-long Rockets fan. "Everybody was in a joyous mood. He brought happiness to Houston.”
The guy once fined for confronting a referee once earned the title NBA’s best owner in 2008. He has the second-highest number of winning seasons in the NBA.
Alexander bought Houston’s Rockets for $85 million. His teams immediately scored back-to-back world championships in 1994 and 1995. Then Alexander reunited University of Houston greats Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. The owner also brought Charles Barkley, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, James Harden and added Chris Paul last week.
The Rockets are worth $1.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
However the team’s diehard fans never saw a sale coming.
“It was a shock," Borhani said.
Alexander is a passionate animal rights activist and has been honored many times through the years for his philanthropic work. He started the Clutch City Foundation in 1995, which supports a number of local charities. Eight months ago, Alexander donated millions to 35 Houston charities including Legacy Community Health and Noah’s House where his money bought a new van for disabled adults.
“We got it," Carleen White of Noah's House said. "We were happy. We were thrilled. Saying 'thank you' just isn’t enough.”
“He’s made a tremendous impact on helping people who would not have health care," said Charee Boydstun of Legacy Community Health.
Borhani co-captains the Red Rowdies, a super-fan group Alexander surprised with a playoff road trip to San Antonio last season where he offered a second gift.
“We were already pumped for Game 1, and they were already right there when we got there, like, 'Do you want to come to Game 2?'" Borhani said. "We were like, 'Yeah!' It was all a party itself again there.”
He’s not sure what’s next. However, fans and charities insist Alexander will be missed and say whoever is next better be good.
Photos: Rockets owner Leslie Alexander through the years
Alexander has been thinking about selling the team for awhile and just made his decision on Monday.
"I’ve made this decision after much deliberation with my family and friends, and do so knowing the franchise is in great shape with the players, coaches and management team in place," Alexander said.
Brown said Alexander is in good health but wants to spend more time with his family and philanthropic efforts.
Alexander said he will continue to support the charities he has made commitments to through the years.
"The Houston community has been home to me," Alexander said."I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the fans, partners, city officials and employees who care so deeply for this team."
Brown will oversee the sales process with the league office. Local billionaire business Tilman Fertitta has already said he's interested.