Ball Don't Lie

Justin Timberlake agrees to become a limited partner in a bid to buy the Memphis Grizzlies

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Justin Timberlake and unidentified woman at a Lakers game in May of 2012 (Getty Images)

When the Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001, Tennessee native Justin Timberlake was a member of a boy band, and he dressed like this; denim stylings and spectacular choreography seemed to be his greatest concerns at the time. Eleven years later, Timberlake has forged a successful and well-respected solo career, his charity foundations are a local point of pride, and he appears to be consistently keeping the denim waist-down where it belongs.

And, as first reported by ESPN's Marc Stein and later fully fleshed out by Kyle Veazey at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Timberlake appears to be in line to purchase a minority stake of the Memphis Grizzlies; a team slowly attempting to be sold to 34-year-old tech pioneer Robert Pera from longtime owner Michael Heisley. From the MCA:

Timberlake, 31, who grew up near Millington, has agreed to become a limited partner in Robert Pera's bid to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies from Michael Heisley, a source close to Pera confirmed Thursday night.

Pera, 34, agreed in June to the purchase and continues to undergo the standard vetting by the NBA. The league's majority owners will have to vote to approve his ownership bid, but if it's approved, he'll become just the second majority owner in the franchise's 11-plus years in Memphis.

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Pera representatives have been in Memphis recently on what was called a "listening tour" and an effort to secure local minority owners.

Pera is believed to have agreed to a $350 million purchase price for the team. Pera is the 34-year-old CEO of Ubiquiti Networks, a San Jose wireless technology firm that he founded.

Modern logic dictates that Timberlake is following in the footsteps of Jay-Z, who has a miniscule stake in the Brooklyn Nets; though he wields a massive influence as the team made its jump from New Jersey to Brooklyn. If you've read my work before, you already know I'm not too familiar with modern logic, and I should point out that Timberlake is actually following in another Memphian's footsteps.

Nearly 40 years ago, the late Isaac Hayes was at the peak of his powers as a solo performer, after years of working behind the scenes as a songwriter and producer. Flush with cash and fame for his Oscar-winning turn with "The Theme from 'Shaft,'" Hayes decided he wanted to help keep the ABA's Memphis Tams in his hometown. The Tams had previously been "owned" by infamous Oakland A's top man Charles Finley, but the baseball maverick hadn't paid much attention to the basketball arm of his outfit, and got out of the hoops realm when the team's attendance started falling.

In Terry Pluto's classic "Loose Balls," longtime ABA deputy commissioner Mike Storen details his meeting with Hayes; soon after being shocked to see that the man he thought was "6-10, 240 pounds" turned out to be a relatively diminutive 5-8 or so.

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Isaac Hayes, in 1974 (Getty Images)

From Storen's recollections:

"Hayes said, "Come to my office, Sunday night, nine o'clock.'

On Sunday at nine, I went to his office, and it was beautiful. Everything was white — the furniture, the walls, the rugs. He answered the door wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and a pistol shoved inside the belt holding up his jeans

He was a wonderful guy. We got along great and he wanted to be an ABA owner. Then he handed me a bag full of money, I'd say about $50,000.

I said, 'It's 10 o'clock on Sunday night. I can't walk out of here into the streets of downtown Memphis with $50,000 in a bag. You're going to have to write me a check.'

He didn't want to write a check. He said we'd talk about it later and we did, but he never came across with a check. It was about the time when Hayes' Stax Records empire started to crumble."

Hayes didn't own Stax records at the time, but the longtime writer/producer/studio musician was its top 1970s draw and a major partner. When a distribution deal with CBS Records fell through, the writing was on the wall for the classic label. Hayes' ABA interest and the Tams themselves would soon fade as a result — the ABA subsidized the team, now called the Memphis Sounds, before selling it to a group of Baltimore-area businessmen who relocated the team to their city.

The Grizzlies are in no such danger. They're a playoff perennial with a rabid fan base, and Pera has stated throughout the process that a prerequisite for his purchase would mean that the team stays in Memphis. That's something that Heisley, who has already moved the team once while flirting with opportunities in suburban Chicago and Anaheim, hasn't completely committed to during his successful turn in Memphis.

Unlike the Nets, the Grizzlies' image and permanence has already been established. The team features an in-place identity and retains playoff promise even after two years of falling in the second round. On top of that, Pera's attempts to purchase the team haven't been approved by the NBA's Board of Governors, yet, and Timberlake hasn't fully committed on record to his stake in the squad.

It's still an obvious pairing, in spite of Timberlake's apparent Los Angeles Laker fandom. Now it's time for the NBA to let another fancy-boy song and dance man into their midst.

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