Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Mikhail Prokhorov will challenge Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency

Throughout his short tenure as owner of the (soon-to-be Brooklyn) Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov has stood out as a bizarre guy. He's the sort of dude who has enough money to buy one of the world's biggest yachts and never use it, or to treat a prostitution scandal as if it were nothing. Plus, he came into the NBA with few fears, paid a bunch of bench players as if they were starters, and now seems primed to bid for Dwight Howard anyway. Prokhorov gets what he wants.

Now, it appears that he wants something a little bigger than a new toy or another business venture. In fact, he has announced a run for Russian president. From the Associated Press:

Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia's richest tycoons and the owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, said Monday he will run against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the March presidential election.

Prokhorov, whose wealth Forbes magazine has estimated at $18 billion, has been cautious not to cross Putin's path in the past. But the tycoon's candidacy may now pose a serious challenge to Putin, whose authority has been dented by his party's poor showing in Russia's Dec. 4 parliamentary election and allegations of widespread fraud during the balloting.

Putin's party only won about 50 percent of that vote, compared to 64 percent four years ago, and the fraud allegations have allowed opposition parties to successfully mount massive anti-Putin protests in Russia.

"The society is waking up," Prokhorov said at the news conference in Moscow to announce his candidacy. "Those authorities who will fail to establish a dialogue with the society will have to go."

This may seem like a random decision from a man basketball fans know primarily as a weird guy with a funny accent, but Prokhorov has been very active in Russian politics, especially recently. In May, he joined the leadership of the Right Cause party, only to drop out in September. He has interests in the future of his country, and opposition to Putin is rising. It's even the subject of a major story in this week's issue of The New Yorker.

If Prokhorov is elected, it would have a major impact on his ownership of the Nets, because it's very difficult to be a hands-on NBA owner when running one of the world's largest nations. On the other hand, it's easy to let the mind wander and see Prokhorov offering various cabinet posts to free agents and trade targets. The Magic can offer Dwight Howard more money than the Nets, but can they counter a post as Russian foreign secretary? I think not.

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