Leslie Alexander selling Rockets

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
18 Comments

After signing the largest contract extension in NBA history – projected to be worth $169 million over four years – James Harden said, “Everything is going to happen in Houston, and that’s the reason I’m here forever.”

But the man who agreed to pay Harden all that money won’t be around anywhere near that long.

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander is selling the franchise, team president Tad Brown announced today.

“Leslie Alexander is a true competitor who always searched for the right move to make his teams better,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Under his ownership, he created a culture of excellence with strong management that attracted Hall of Famers, All-Stars and coaching giants and brought two NBA championships and four WNBA titles to Houston.

“Well-respected around the league, he has been an active and influential owner whose vision helped to grow the game globally, especially in China. Moreover, his philanthropy speaks just as powerfully as his ownership, with local libraries, women’s centers and homeless shelters all benefitting from his generosity.”

Forbes valued the Rockets at $1.65 billion earlier this year. It has never been a better time to own an NBA team, with new national TV deals in effect and the league’s popularity soaring.

This is a pivotal time for Houston, even with Harden locked up. Chris Paul will be a free agent next summer, eligible for a max contract worth about $207 million over five years. The Rockets are trying to trade for Carmelo Anthony, another high-priced star.

Alexander has long empowered general manager Daryl Morey to take big swings. But with the franchise’s future in flux, will Morey get to keep spending? Will the next owner sign off on paying Paul the max through age 37?

It was already an exciting time in Houston with the Rockets’ sky-high ceiling. It’s still exciting, but far less certain, with the ceiling just as high but the floor suddenly much lower.