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Nike's Phil Knight leads $2B offer for NBA's Portland Trail Blazers

Illustration of a basketball with the seam shaped like a dollar symbol

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nike co-founder Phil Knight is leading a $2 billion bid for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, despite the team saying it's not for sale.

Why it matters: Pro sports franchises are changing hands at a rapid pace, and it doesn't figure to slow down anytime soon. And as we wrote before, between Chelsea F.C. and the Denver Broncos, the teams are fetching record prices.

Details: Both ESPN and the New York Times reported yesterday that Knight, along with Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky, made a written offer and "plan to remain aggressive in acquiring the team," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

  • That was followed by a short statement by the team: "An offer was made by Phil Knight. The team remains not for sale."
  • Knight is a Portland native and a state legend. Nike is headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon, and Knight remains a huge benefactor to his alma mater, the University of Oregon — the place where the shoe business began.
  • The Trail Blazers play in one of the smallest markets in the NBA, and Knight's ownership could be a welcome signal to the Rip City faithful, who fear the team could end up north in Seattle.

Between the lines: The fate of the Trail Blazers, as well as the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, have been up in the air since the death of owner Paul Allen in 2018.

  • Paul's sister, Jody, has been managing the Paul Allen Trust since his death and has signaled that she has no intention of selling either team.
  • However, as Portland-based sports reporter John Canzano has reported, Allen stipulated that his trust be liquidated upon his death.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday during his pre-NBA Finals press conference he believes the team will eventually be sold: "My preference would be that the team stays in Portland."
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