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Despite Turning Down NBA’s Generous $3 Million Offer, ABA Team’s Owners Earned $800 Million by Not Budging

Prateek Singh

Despite Turning Down NBA's Generous $3 Million Offer, ABA Team's Owners Earned $800 Million by Not Budging

There are several stories in the world of basketball where one person or a group found immense success. However, not many have tasted success like the Silna brothers. Ozzie and Daniel Silna earned hundreds of millions of dollars from the NBA, without actually ever owning a team in the league. Recently, Joe Pompliano highlighted their journey from ABA to NBA in a LinkedIn post.

Ozzie and Daniel’s parents migrated to the United States from Latvia in the 1930s and decades later they started a polyester manufacturing unit. The Silna brothers used to work for their parents’ company and once the polyester prices skyrocketed, they took out one million dollars from the profits to start a new venture. The brothers decided that they would own a team in the ABA and bought the Carolina Cougars in 1974 who were going through a rough patch. Ozzie and Daniel then did a rebranding of their franchise and moved them to Saint Louis and named it Saint Louis Spirits.

Despite Turning Down NBA's Generous $3 Million Offer, ABA Team's Owners Earned $800 Million by Not Budging
Credits: LinkedIn/Joe Pompliano

In 1976, the NBA decided that they need to merge with the ABA and therefore a proposal was sent out. It said that only four of the seven ABA teams will be brought in, and the Silna brothers’ team wasn’t one of it. Later, one of the remaining teams Virginia Squires went bankrupt and then there were two, Kentucky Colonels and the Saint Louis Spirits. Each of the teams were offered $3 million and only the Colonels accepted that offer while the Spirits passed on it. They decided to hold out and stay on their position as the last remaining ABA team.

Even though the $3 million would’ve made them profits, the Silna brothers decided to not accept it. Then, the NBA came in with another offer where they were given $2 million in cash and the revenue-sharing agreement allowed the brothers to have 1/7th of the TV money received by the four ABA teams that joined the NBA. In initial years, they earned as much as $200k but once the league gained popularity, the Silna brothers started bringing in millions of dollars. In 2014 when the league decided to get rid of old contracts, their buyout amount was a massive $500 million. From a $1 million investment, Ozzie and Daniel made over $800 million.

The Silna brothers talked about unfair treatment

One would imagine that after making such a profit on their 40-year-old investment, the Silna brothers would have nothing to complain about. However, their story runs a little different as in an ESPN documentary, they opened up about being unfairly treated by the NBA. Ozzie said, “We expected and hoped to be part of the N.B.A. for quite a long time. We shouldn’t have been treated as badly as we were. There was no reason to leave us out.”

In 2016, Daniel talked about the logic behind the ABA-NBA merger and how he wished it would go. He said, “Logic was that you take six of the seven A.B.A. teams and make the N.B.A. a 24-team league.” But since the NBA only brought in four teams, the brothers had to plan out how to get the maximum profit off of their investment, and in four decades, they proved that they made the right call by not taking the $3 million.

About the author

Prateek Singh

Prateek Singh


Prateek is a Senior NBA Writer for The SportsRush. He has over 900 published articles under his name. Prateek merged his passion for writing and his love for the sport of basketball to make a career out of it. Other than basketball, he is also an ardent follower of the UFC and soccer. Apart from the world of sports, he has followed hip-hop religiously and often writes about the origins, evolution, and the biggest stars of the music genre.

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