Mat Ishbia gains one of greatest unseen sport stories with purchase of Suns

Dec 20, 2022, 1:41 PM | Updated: 5:58 pm
Former Michigan State player Mat Ishbia laughs as he are introduced along with Michigan State's 200...

Former Michigan State player Mat Ishbia laughs as he are introduced along with Michigan State's 2000 national championship NCAA college basketball team during halftime of the Michigan State-Florida game in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

(AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

There’s an old saying about the devil you know and the devil you don’t.

That will not apply to the sale of the Phoenix Suns.

The franchise is being sold to Mat Ishbia, a billionaire mortgage lender from Michigan. Unlike the exiled Robert Sarver, Ishbia is already in good standing with the NBA. And here’s the best part:

Ishbia knows what championship basketball looks like. He was a walk-on basketball player at Michigan State. He played under legendary head coach Tom Izzo, participated in three Final Fours and was part of a national championship team in 2000.

He’s also very generous to the teams he cares about, having donated a reported $32 million to the MSU athletic department in 2021. Think of what he might do for the Suns.

There are no guarantees that the new guy will avoid the vanity trap and adrenaline rush that comes with owning a sports franchise. There are no assurances Ishbia will pour ample resources into the Suns while refraining from the hands-on meddling that can derail a franchise, which we’ve seen too often in Arizona.

But I like our chances.

Either way, the impending sale will finalize one of the biggest breaks we’ve experienced as a Major League sports town, mitigating some of the horrible stuff we’ve endured along the way.

That’s because a bad owner can ruin everything. And for nearly a decade, Sarver disgraced a great basketball town with his dysfunctional approach.

Maybe Sarver was getting better with age. Maybe the worst of him was in the rearview mirror, including a toxic workplace culture that ultimately prompted the NBA to force his hand and sell the team. But a heritage franchise and a proud fan base deserved far better. So did the people who worked for him. And now, we have been liberated.

Sports towns rarely get this kind of reprieve.

To his credit, Sarver was smart enough to cash out. He sold the Suns and the Mercury for roughly $4 billion, or 10 times the purchase price. This is not a subject I plan to broach with Jerry Colangelo anytime soon.

But had Sarver chosen to fight, digging in for a prolonged battle against the NBA, his players would’ve been placed in an untenable position. They would’ve had to side with their boss or protest with their fellow players. And if you thought the Suns don’t get fair treatment from NBA officials in their current form, imagine if Sarver chose to burn it all down.

Instead, Sarver chose the goldmine, the $3.6 billion increase in franchise value from when he purchased it. And maybe he can leverage his windfall to buy the Washington Commanders, where he would actually be an upgrade.

So, welcome, Mat Ishbia. Please understand this franchise is very important to us, from Al McCoy to the mascot. Connect with the generous businessman in town who wants to help fund a statue park outside the Footprint Center to properly honor Colangelo, McCoy, Charles Barkley and Diana Taurasi. Appreciate that you are now in possession of one of the greatest untold and unseen sport stories left in this country, the day that Phoenix can host a victory parade for their beloved NBA franchise.

Make it happen. Whatever it costs.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Phoenix Suns

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns high fives Torrey Craig #0 after scoring against the Utah Jaz...
Arizona Sports

Suns’ Deandre Ayton probable to return Monday vs. Jazz, Markkanen questionable

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton was ruled probable to return to the lineup Monday night against the Utah Jazz.
22 hours ago
Photo by Phoenix Suns....
Character Counts

Phoenix Suns Charities awards $275,000 in grants to 19 Valley nonprofits

Phoenix Suns Charities recently awarded $275,000 in grants to 19 Arizona nonprofits as part of its latest funding cycle during the 2022-23 NBA season.
22 hours ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against De'Anthony Melton #8 of the Philadelph...
Kellan Olson

Suns find winning breakthrough vs. 76ers, Devin Booker stays hot

The Phoenix Suns finally found their breakthrough on Saturday to return to winning ways and avoid a collapse in the second half.
22 hours ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after a three-point shot against the Philadelphia 76ers ...
Jake Anderson

Devin Booker puts up MVP-esque performance in Suns’ win over 76ers, Joel Embiid

Suns' Devin Booker put up a MVP-esque performance in Phoenix's 125-105 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at Footprint Center.
2 days ago
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) drives on Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton during the f...
Wills Rice

76ers’ James Harden out, Joel Embiid starts vs. Suns; Deandre Ayton out

The 76ers listed guard James Harden (left Achilles) as out, while MVP contender Joel Embiid (right calf) will start Saturday vs. the Suns.
2 days ago
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns dribbling the ball get fouled by De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacrament...
Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns lose cool again, drop 3rd straight vs. Kings

No matter how well they play at the moment, the Phoenix Suns seemingly can't avoid losing control of a game at some point in the second half.
3 days ago
Mat Ishbia gains one of greatest unseen sport stories with purchase of Suns