Sam Presti makes the moves, Clay Bennett writes the checks. Even with Presti’s brilliance, Bennett ultimately decided the fate of the OKC Thunder this season.
$27.8 million. That’s how much money Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett is set to pay in additional taxes to the NBA this season (if no other roster moves are made).
In today’s NBA it costs to compete. Cleveland, Golden State and Oklahoma City – the top three contenders as of now – all have payrolls over $130 million. Four other teams are currently above the luxury tax line just to make the playoffs. In a time when many NBA teams are still losing money, owners aren’t as motivated to reach deeper in their pockets.
Clay Bennett is. And he deserves our gratitude just as much as Sam Presti.
Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City lit a fire in the organization. Because of Durant and Russell Westbrook, they had a team built to compete for championship every year. Presti didn’t need to make countless acquisitions to better their team – they had two of the best seven players in the world. Once KD left the organization had a void to fill.
Fans were used to contending. Players/coaches were used to contending. Russell Westbrook was used to contending. The front office had to keep Russ around, or else they’d risk losing the support of the Oklahoma community. They responded perfectly.
First they added Paul George, the closest thing to KD currently in the NBA. Then they brought in Carmelo Anthony’s huge contract, fully realizing they may have to pay out $123 million for four players (including Steven Adams).
Sam Presti did a great job working opposing General Manager’s but without Clay Bennett’s approval, none of this would be possible. Why is Bennett so willing to risk this much money for a championship?
Because he cares.
Bennett didn’t bring the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City to make money – he bought/brought them for Oklahoma City to have a professional team in his home state. Clay Bennett may be the true owner of this team, but in reality it’s OKC’s team first.
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While other teams are owned by business people, the Thunder are owned by an Oklahoman. They are owned by a lifelong sports fan that only had a hometown college team (Oklahoma) to root for. He saw how much OKC loved the Hornets in their lone season, so he made it his mission to bring professional basketball back full-time.
Bennett is like us – he’s a Thunder fan. Durant leaving only grew the thirst for a championship for him more. It’s why he’s willing to spend more money than ever before on this roster. Bennett easily could have hit the reset button: trade Westbrook, rebuild and save money in the process. But he knew that Russ was more important to him and his community than a few million dollars. That’s rare for professional sports owners.
We are blessed to have Bennett as our owner. He’s committed to winning over profit, moreso now than ever. Thank you Clay – now go get you an NBA Finals ring.