At 5 feet 6, Dan Gilbert never had a realistic chance of playing in the NBA, so he discovered another way into the league: owning the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Gilbert, founder of the nation's largest online mortgage company, bought the Cavaliers for $375-million Monday from Gordon Gund, inheriting a team that is soaring to new heights with LeBron James.
"It's been a long, long dream," said Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans. "I'm definitely pinching myself. This is something I've talked about since I was a kid 30 years ago."
The Detroit businessman heads a group of investors that will assume ownership of the Cavaliers and operational control of the 20,000-seat Gund Arena once the league's board of governors approves the deal.
Gund and his brother George bought the team from Ted Stepien in 1983 for $20-million. Gordon Gund will maintain a minority stake of at least 10 percent, the Associated Press reported. The amount of cash changing hands will be further reduced by Gilbert's assumption of debt, AP said.
Gilbert, 42, failed in an attempt to buy the Milwaukee Brewers last year.
Primarily because of James, the league's reigning rookie of the year, the Cavaliers, who won just 17 games two years ago, have never been more visible or valuable since joining the league in 1970.
"As great as one person might be, you can't base your decisions on one person," Gilbert said. "He's certainly a big part of the equation."
Gilbert said he has no plans to relocate the Cavaliers, a possibility that had made Cleveland residents, some of whom are still bitter about Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore in 1995, nervous when they heard Gund was selling.
"They will be staying put in downtown Cleveland _ right where they belong," Gilbert said.
The Cavaliers have a lease agreement with the city that runs through 2027.
Because of strict NBA rules, Gilbert was unable to discuss any of the tough personnel decisions he'll be facing in his first few seasons as owner. Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and guard Jeff McInnis are in their final contract years, and after next season, the team will be able to offer James a multiyear extension.
"We'll have to be smart about things," Gilbert said.
James said he had yet to talk with Gilbert, but felt confident there would be few changes to the organization.
"It's going to be nice to try to get to know the guy and build a relationship," James said.
A communications major at Michigan State, Gilbert began building his business in his first year of law school when he invested $5,000 _ his life savings _ to launch the online mortgage business Rock Financial. In 1998, he sold the company for $370-million, only to buy it back four years later. According to Forbes, Rock Financial closed mortgages totaling more than $12-billion last year.
PAYTON STREAK: Celtics guard Gary Payton did not play in Monday night's game against the Hornets because of a strained left hamstring, ending the second-longest active consecutive games streak in the NBA at 305. He last sat out on Feb. 5, 2001, while with Seattle. Washington's Antawn Jamison has played in 357 straight games. A.C. Green holds the NBA record of 1,192 consecutive games.
SUNS: Phoenix activated center Jake Voskuhl from the injured list and traded second-year forward Zarko Cabarkapa to Golden State for two draft picks. Cabarkapa, the Suns' first-round draft pick in 2003, has averaged 4.1 points and 2.0 rebounds as a reserve.