When Mikhail Prokhorov became owner of the Brooklyn Nets in May 2010, he promised that the franchise would win a championship within five years. It looked like an unlikely, foolish claim at the time, but the billionaire Russian oligarch's willingness to spend shocking amounts of money on players and the team's offseason acquisitions of veterans like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have made it a real possibility. If the Nets are going to win a title in the foreseeable future, it's probably going to be within the two-season window before June 2015. Somehow, Prokhorov may end up following through on his promise.
Nevertheless, it's ridiculous that Prokhorov ever made such a statement in the first place. What could have inspired him to say such a thing?
SK: Why did you put a five year timetable on it when you first got here?
MP: You know, it was based on the Five Year Plan of Vladimir Lenin. But, it didn't work good in the Soviet economy, and I hope it will work much better here.
Far be it from me to criticize a Lenin reference from an actual Russian citizen, but Prokhorov appears to be a little off. The concept of the five-year plan is typically associated with Lenin's successor, Joseph Stalin, who replaced his predecessor's New Economic Policy with the first of the Soviet Union's eventual 13 five-year plans in 1928. Stalin's first plan — completed in only four years — largely succeeded in that it helped turn the Soviet Union into one of the leading industrial powers in the world (although it's hard to separate any Stalin policy from the brutality that occurred in concert with it). On top of that, it can be argued that Stalinism employs some of the same tactics — such as a very close relationship between the state and the structure of private industry — that helped Prokhorov build his massive fortune in Russia's post-Communist infancy. My guess is that he's actually referring to Lenin's system of war communism, an economic policy focused on keeping the Red Army functional during the Russian Civil War that inadvertently created a black market, but it's really anyone's guess.
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Whatever the case, It's unclear why Prokhorov did not want to associate himself with a plan that achieved many of its aims. Why, it's almost like comparing yourself to Stalin in an interview with an American media outlet could be a bad idea. Lenin, by comparison, was one of the good ones!
Or, you know, maybe Prokhorov is just joking. At various times in his tenure as Nets boss, the lanky Muscovite has treated interviews as an opportunity to test the gullibility of his interlocutor with deadpan humor. It's entirely possible that Prokhorov wanted to rekindle the fire of Cold War ideological battles and see if anyone would care that he cribbed his plans from a Bolshevik. If that's the case, then he absolutely succeeded.
So let's not make too big a deal of this statement. To borrow a phrase from Lenin's one-time compatriot and Stalin's eventual rival Leon Trotsky, we can safely consign Prokhorov's answer to the dustbin of history.
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- Mikhail Prokhorov
- Vladimir Lenin
- Joseph Stalin