Updated: Apr 5
By: Jacob Walters
Dan Gilbert was handed the future “best” NBA player of his era. All he could muster with that fortune was one NBA title (needing 7 games and dependent upon Draymond Green kicking Lebron in the groin). Then when your star leaves town, mostly because of you, it’s time to self-reflect.
Dan Gilbert, 58, bought the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005. Gilbert was the co-founder of Quicken Loans and founded Rock Ventures. With an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, he is also the owner of the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL and the Canton Charge of the NBA’s G-League. BGilbert’s legacy revolves around LeBron James and what could’ve been. While LeBron did end Cleveland’s championship drought, LeBron was also 1-3 in the NBA Finals as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It wasn’t like LeBron was the problem. In fact, in his nine playoff appearances with Cleveland, LeBron averaged 30.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 7.8 APG.
Without LeBron, the Cavaliers have a daunting record of 135-334 and a winning percentage of .287 in six seasons (yay, Collin Sexton!). LeBron could only do so much for a Cavaliers team that was mediocre without him. Three No. 1 picks in Gilbert’s ownership with nothing to show for it says something about Gilbert as an owner. When LeBron took his talents to South Beach, Gilbert wrote a letter in comic sans, guaranteeing that the Cleveland Cavaliers would make the NBA Finals before the Miami Heat did. As you would’ve guessed, the Heat won a title before Cleveland did. In fact, they won two thanks to LeBron finally getting some help from his new owners in Miami in the persons of Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Gilbert admitted that making the guarantee “wasn’t the most brilliant thing he’s ever done in his life”. The funny thing is that Gilbert again said that “the Cavaliers can win a title without LeBron” after LeBron left for Los Angeles.
Gilbert also let beloved general manager David Griffin go, when Gilbert knew that James was a fan of Griffin. In fact, Griffin described being “miserable” during his time with Cleveland and knew he was “going to leave the moment Cleveland won an NBA title”. LeBron James even called for the Cavaliers to increase payroll, but Gilbert was at odds with James over the request. After letting Griffin go, Gilbert offered Chauncey Billups an annual salary of $1.5 million for the same role. He upped the ante… to $2 million, which is still half the league-average starting rate of $4 million. That number of $2 million was Griffin’s annual salary, by the way.
Gilbert has also had some shady dealings with his companies, particularly Quicken Loans. Quicken Loans settled a fraudulent lending case for $32.5 million. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by the United States Justice Department and was related to FHA-related mortgages made several years before. Quicken Loans was also accused of using high pressure salesmanship to target elderly and vulnerable homeowners, misleading borrowers about their loans and falsifying property appraisals and other information to push through bad deals. There are also continuing allegations of abusive behavior towards customers and co-workers at Quicken Loans.
Gilbert’s dealings in Detroit increases his worthiness as sports’ worst owner. Gilbert is heavily invested in Detroit, to the tune of about $5.6 billion. Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores tried to bring an MLS expansion team to Detroit. However, there was a catch; use Ford Field instead of a soccer-only complex. The bid ultimately failed with MLS looking to sites like St. Louis for expansion. Gilbert has also proposed building a four-building jail complex in Wayne County, with the site expecting to be completed by 2022. Gilbert has also installed a 500-camera security system in Detroit and has even defended the system, saying that ‘the line was pretty bright’. Considering that Detroit is predominately African-American (78.64%) and that America is under a growing surveillance state, this is a bad look for Gilbert, especially when you get a tax break for donating to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.
The city of Cleveland has had it rough when it comes to sports. If you want to know why the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA title, the obvious answer is going to be LeBron. The stats don’t lie and Gilbert has done virtually nothing otherwise. Dan Gilbert should get your vote as the worst sports owner of the 21st century.