Will Smith Buys Into 76ers, Plus 5 Celebrity Team Owners Who Matter

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is headed back to Philly, this time as a minority owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. The NBA, which has already canceled the first two weeks of games due to a bitter lockout, approved the sale of the Sixers to a new group of owners that includes actor/rapper Will Smith. Whether Smith is merely brought in as an investor or if he’ll actually be involved in the team’s operations (or if DJ Jazzy Jeff is coming for the ride) remains to be seen.

Back in April, LeBron James bought a share in England’s Liverpool soccer club, but had yet to even attend a game until this past Saturday. He’s got the time now–that lockout. Meanwhile the Miami Dolphins have an entire roster of minority celeb owners, including Fergie, J.Lo, Marc Anthony, Venus and Serena Williams, Gloria Estefan and Jimmy Buffett, all of which do nothing except make occasional appearances as part of majority owner Stephen Ross’ plan to attract a more diverse crowd. That’s about par for the course with celebrity owners of sports teams. However, the following celebrity owners have really gotten involved with their teams. Will Mr. Smith join them in the future?

Steve Nash–Vancouver Whitecaps

Nash, an avid soccer fan, spent two years trying to bring an MLS team to Vancouver and in 2009 became part owner of the city’s Whitecaps when the bid was approved. A talented soccer player whose first word was “goal,” he recently participated in a team practice. The two-time NBA MVP previously said, “I want to be a resource and a sounding board and use it as something that’ll be a lot of enjoyment for me,” and remarked after the practice that it was a good opportunity for him to get to know the players. Watch the video and you’ll see it’s obvious that he knows exactly what’s going on with the squad.

Bill Murray–St. Paul Saints

No disrespect to the Dos Equis guy, but Bill Murray may actually be the most interesting man in the world. Murray, a lifelong baseball fan, has been co-owner and team psychologist for the St. Paul Saints, an independent professional baseball team in Minnesota, since the team’s inception in 1993. According to his profile on the team’s page: “On Opening Night, he was stationed outside the ballpark selling programs and later tossed out a first pitch.” Murray has also served as the team’s first and third base coach and assists in “morale boosting” and “train spotting.”

Jay-Z–New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets

Jay-Z‘s involvement with the New Jersey and soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets has been varied and substantial. Back before LeBron’s “Decision” to take his talents to South Beach, Hova wined and dined LeBron in an effort to woo him to the Nets and also traveled to Akron, Ohio, to take part in the Nets’ meeting with King James. Jay also helped design the Brooklyn Nets uniforms and will also be headlining a series of concerts to get things started at the team’s new digs in Brooklyn. Match that, Willllllll (in Uncle Phil voice).

David Letterman–Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

An avid racing fan, comedian and late night television icon David Letterman joined his friend and former driver Bobby Rahal’s racing team in 1996 by purchasing a small ownership interest. In 2004, the team changed its name to Rahal Letterman Racing to reflect the funnyman’s involvement. Though Dave keeps busy as the host of “Late Show with David Letterman,” he regularly attends races and hangs out in the RLR pits. And in his spare time, he races his own vehicles and accumulates a massive amount of speeding tickets.

Drew Carey–Seattle Sounders

Former U.S. Marine Drew Carey is a major soccer supporter and a force behind MLS’ Seattle Sounders record attendance figures. The team’s chairman and part owner, Carey became a voracious soccer fan in 2003. The team referred to Carey as the “most high-profile supporter of soccer in the U.S.” and said this of his involvement with the team: “Who conceived the idea of a supporters association which would have a say in the club’s direction? It was Drew. How about the contest to name the team? Drew, too. And who’s brainstorm resulted in the club’s signature marching band? Uh, that would be Drew again.” Who needs to update Carey’s picture on this page to reflect Carey’s massive weight loss? The webmaster.