The Toronto Raptors have been in the spotlight unlike ever before since winning their first NBA Championship in 2019. While most franchises have an owner to thank for getting them to championship glory, however, the Raptors are a little different. The person who owns the Toronto Raptors is actually a whole organization of people.
Who owns the Toronto Raptors?
According to their website, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) dates back over 100 years, when the Toronto Maple Leafs became one of six original teams in the NHL. With American leagues not yet considering Canada, the Maple Leafs became the pride of Toronto.
Then, with the expansion of U.S. sports leagues, Maple Leafs ownership decided to put their brand on the NBA’s newest expansion team, the Raptors and rebranded under its current name, MLSE.
With the merger, MLSE became one of the most unique ownership groups in the NBA. While Knicks fans constantly have to deal with one man, James Dolan, controlling the fate of the beloved franchise, MLSE runs as a business community, with multiple people behind every decision the team makes.
How is the Raptors’ ownership unique?
There are pros and cons to this structure, but the Raptors wasted no time becoming a prominent competitor thanks to Vince Carter, then Chris Bosh, and eventually Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Kawhi Leonard. In a league where new NBA champions are increasingly rare, the Raptors became the first Canadian champion in NBA history.
With a good singular owner, a team can function well without too many voices in the room. Owners like the Miami Heat’s Mickey Arison have found a knack for spending money, shutting up, and letting the NBA people do what needs to be done.
On the flip side, relying on one person can lead to situations like the Knicks’ Dolan, who’d rather milk the franchise for money than succeed in basketball.
The idea of an ownership group is not unique. Most teams, even those with a figurehead identified as the owner, involve a group effort led by billionaires. The lack of a definitive face of the franchise, such as Michael Jordan with the Charlotte Hornets, is what makes the Raptors unique.
How can this help?
Masai Ujiri is lauded by many as one of the best NBA executives. It may not be a mistake that he’s also given more freedom than a lot of NBA executives receive. While a general manager can be an extension of the owner’s desires, the Raptors trust Ujiri to do what’s right for the team.
This may explain why Ujiri was able to swing for the fences on Leonard without knowing whether he’d stay with the team. He saw the window for a championship and took the risk. Even with Leonard gone, it’s hard imagining a singular owner allowing their basketball team to gamble on the future like this.
MLSE has CEOs, employees, and all of the other staples one might expect from an organization. But as a whole, they run entirely different than your typical ownership group.
Whether they’re the formula for success or a sample size is anyone’s guess, but with a championship trophy, $2.1 billion valuation by Forbes, and team that looks great despite Leonard’s absence, the Raptors’ ownership has everything to be proud of and nothing to regret.