At $334,304,240, Kevin Garnett is still no.1 in NBA history when it comes to career earnings. (LeBron will overtake him at the end of his current Lakers contract). With such earnings, twenty years ago, KG could’ve purchased an NBA team on his own. Today he doesn’t even come close and has to find a group of investors to make a bid for the Timberwolves.
It was different for Michael Jordan. As much money he made, MJ was purchasing an NBA team at the perfect time. Team valuations were low, and more than one team was available. According to the Charlotte Observer, Jordan paid $30 million in cash and assumed Johnson’s (previous Hornets owner) debt to complete the sale of the Hornets in 2010. Including debt, MJ bought the Hornets for about $180 million. The “cheapest” team in the NBA in 2020, according to Forbes, are the Memphis Grizzlies valued at $1.3 billion.
But before MJ acquired the Hornets, he was very close to owning the Milwaukee Bucks. After his second Chicago retirement, Jordan became a minority owner and team president of the Washington Wizards. Once he decided to come back and play, MJ had to divest his interests in the team. After his final retirement in 2003, the Wizards didn’t show enthusiasm for MJ to return as a partner, so he moved on.
“League sources said Stern invited Jordan to New York last month to meet with representatives of five teams about full or partial ownership. They were believed to be Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, San Antonio, and Milwaukee. Because the Bucks have been for sale for a year, Stern and Jordan pursued that deal.”
Sam Smith, Chicago Tribune
The Bucks were valued between $150-200 million, and there were some concerns if MJ can finance the deal on his own. Ultimately, the investment bank advising Herb Kohl (Bucks owner at the time) assessed Jordan’s bid vas viable. But that wasn’t the main issue. Same as the Timberwolves right now, Kohl wanted to make sure the Bucks would stay in their home market. As Jordan didn’t have any significant ties with Wisconsin, Kohl decided to keep the team. The deal was so close that MJ almost made the Bucks draft picks that year.
“Michael Jordan was trying to buy the Bucks that night. They thought there was a deal in place at the time for Jordan to own the Bucks. One of the reasons they were pushing this was that Jordan wanted to make the draft pick for Milwaukee [in 2003]. But the Bucks weren’t going to let him make the draft pick unless this deal was done. Of course, it falls apart a day or so later.”
Chad Ford, The Bill Simmons podcast
I’d say it turned out well for the Bucks. Realistically speaking, MJ’s GM track record isn't stellar, and he would probably try and move the team at a certain point. Kohl eventually sold the team to a group that is committed to Milwaukee, demonstrated by their recently built state-of-the-art arena. If they manage to extend Giannis whenever free agency happens, next to California and Texas, Wisconsin will be the epicenter of the NBA for a long time.