Robert Pera joined the ranks of NBA ownership last fall when he closed a $377 million deal to finalize his purchase (along with multiple local minority investors, including Justin Timberlake) of the Memphis Grizzlies. In that time, the Silicon Valley billionaire has presided over the revamping of his team's front office, locker room and coaching staff, watched his new investment have the most successful season in its history, and even joined a Grizzlies message board just to chat with some of the team's die-hard fans. It's been kind of a big year.
[Photos: Athletes who own sports franchises]
The 35-year-old founder of Ubiquiti Networks has started to display a new wrinkle over the last few months, though — an apparent interest in mixing it up on the court with NBA players past and present. He's talked trash to Dikembe Mutombo, matched up with Toronto Raptors swingman Landry Fields and even challenged noted Grizzlies defensive stopper Tony Allen to a game of one-on-one for charity.
That face-off has yet to materialize, and apparently, that's left Pera in the market for another source of high-level competition. And we do mean high-level — when Grizzlies fans and Pera's Twitter followers began suggesting a game with fellow brash tech billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the Grizz boss scoffed and set his sights toward another owner with a significantly more impressive on-court résumé:
What's with all the 1:1 with @mcuban talk? I'm in, but I would make quick work of him...— Robert J Pera (@RobertPera) October 15, 2013
If we are talking an owner game, get me MJ! I'll up the charity contribution to $1mm— Robert J Pera (@RobertPera) October 15, 2013
Yep, that's right — Pera's calling out Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, who recently made some waves by identifying a handful of all-time greats, including LeBron James, that he's quite sure he'd have been able to take down in one-on-one games in his legendary prime. Jordan's just a bit past that prime now at age 50 — although, we should note, he can still throw down — and the apparently-quite-confident Pera is willing to stake a cool million to the charity of Mike's choice on his ability to take advantage of the 15-year age difference between him and the greatest player of all time.
As our own Kelly Dwyer noted in detailing Pera's challenge to Allen last month, the Memphis owner isn't without game — he reportedly trains with former San Jose State University player Terry Cannon, has "great touch [and] pretty good footwork" and, as you can see in the clip below, looked pretty fluid off the bounce in a recent workout at the Grizzlies' practice court (he's the guy in the shooting sleeve, which, come on):
The (allegedly) 6-foot-3 Pera even went so far as to say he wouldn't accept being spotted any points in a game to 10 against Jordan, which sounds like the kind of thing you say to try to goad your famously competitive prey into engaging in live combat ... and which, if we're being honest, is the kind of thing Pera would probably instantly regret as soon as he actually found himself head-up with the Hall of Famer. Then again, of course, stranger things have happened — it's not like M.J. hasn't found himself on the short end of the stick in a game against a seemingly overmatched executive before.
Will the prospect of a million bucks to one of the myriad charities with which Jordan is associated be enough to prompt him to respond? (We know he won't do so via Facebook, Twitter or twerking.) Will Pera actually get his chance to play Teenage O.J. Mayo to a 50-year-old M.J.? Or will the challenge merely dissipate and scatter on the winds to the four corners of the earth? What the future holds is anyone's guess, so please make sure to stay tuned to Ball Don't Lie, your home for all the latest in "Did someone say something about a one-on-one game?" news.
Related MJ video from Yahoo Sports: