The Mavericks’ D-League affiliate is about to take its diverse organizational structure one step further into new territory.
D-League sources told ESPN.com that the Frisco-based Texas Legends – who already employ Nancy Lieberman as the first-ever female head coach of a team under the NBA’s umbrella -- will announce Tuesday that Chinese sports entrepreneur Sonny Xiao is joining the franchise as a co-owner.
Sources said that Xiao – who will team with Mavs president Donnie Nelson and local businessman Evan Wyly in the Legends’ ownership group – has been approved by the NBA and will thus become the first Chinese-born owner of an NBA-affiliated team.
Xiao, who completed a portion of his education at SMU and is a co-founder of RXtreme Sports Consulting in China, can still claim that distinction because a signed agreement in 2009 that would have transferred a 15-percent stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers to a group of Chinese investors fell through and was never executed.
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov recently became the first foreign-born majority owner of an NBA team when he assumed operational control of the New Jersey Nets in the spring.
The Mavericks, thanks largely to Nelson, have had strong ties to China for more than a decade, dating to the selection of Wang Zhizhi with the 36th overall pick in the 1999 draft.
Wang played in parts of two seasons with the Mavericks, after which then-Mavericks assistant coach and current Legends GM Del Harris coached China’s national team to eighth place at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, matching the country’s best-ever finish. Nelson then served as an assistant coach on China’s national team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
In a June 2009 interview, NBA commissioner David Stern described the Cavaliers’ intentions to sell a minority stake to a Chinese group as a "logical second step" to the league’s growing list of projects in China, which include commitments to build several new arenas and develop a pro league there.
The Houston Rockets and the New York Yankees are prominent American sports franchises known to already have sponsorship deals with business entities from China.