Michael Nassirian is the recently retired executive at Microsoft is bringing professional basketball back to Bellevue for another try, hoping that he can garner more support than the ill-fated Bellevue Blackhawks did from 2004-2007.
Michael Nassirian, who retired from Microsoft last year after 19 years guiding key programs there, has been awarded a franchise in the new North American Prestige Basketball (NAPB) league and will make Bellevue the home of the team. He plans a contest to determine the nickname for the Bellevue team that will begin play in 2019, the league’s second season.
The fledgling NAPB opens the first week of January 2018, with eight teams, a far-flung league that will stretch from one-time NBA cities Albany and Rochester, New York west to Yakima, Washington and Vancouver, B.C.
David Magley, former head of the Canadian professional basketball league and creator of the new league where he serves as president and COO, says “the league has aggressive growth plans and expects to double in size by year two,” with Bellevue “only the first of the cities planning to be aboard in 2019.”
Nassirian said that in addition to viewing a franchise in the new league as a good business proposition, he was attracted by Magley’s intent to make “community service” a large component of the league’s business model.
Teams will be required to partner with local school systems to help deliver messages of anti-bullying, positive self-image and staying in school to the youth in their markets.
“Being part of the DNA of Bellevue in my businesses and philanthropy, I saw the plans Magley has for these teams as so right to bring these young players and their energy for community to Bellevue,” explained Nassirian. He has been involved in various local organizations, including the Bellevue Chamber board and Rotary.
Talk of eventual return of the NBA to Seattle, and the current discussion of a facility in which a team would play, dominates the conversation of basketball fans in the area. Thus, the fact that pro basketball, although in a new league below NBA caliber, is returning but will carry Bellevue’s name to media coverage of the league and social media will be a shock to many.
Nassirian said his Bellevue ties and the challenge he sees of attracting Eastside residents to fight the traffic snarls to evening events in Seattle made it a logical business decision to place the team in the city that has won his affection since being hired by Microsoft to move here from Texas in 1997. Nassirian is a native of Iran whose family moved to Texas when he was 17 and it was there that he became a U.S. citizen.
And Nassirian isn’t concerned about the possibility that Seattle eventually will be tapped for a new NBA team.
“There is no reason why, even if Seattle is awarded an NBA franchise, that a Bellevue men’s professional basketball team would not continue to be viable, just as the Tacoma Rainiers can be a successful professional baseball team 30 miles from Seattle,” Nassirian said.
In fact, Nassirian is expecting that fans hungry for men’s professional basketball, even those in Seattle, will look to the Bellevue NAPB team to satisfy some of their desire.
Magley, addressing future growth of the NAPB, said “there are more than 60 markets that once had NBA, original ABA and D-League teams that are now without professional basketball teams.”
He said he expects that in year two most games will be in regional pods with a major “road trip” once per year for each team. The season will consist of 32 games, 16 home and 16 away.
“The fact that people in five former NBA cities, including Bellevue as the Seattle area, have jumped at the opportunity to bring men’s pro basketball back to their communities is a significant factor for our efforts to expand into such areas as San Diego,” Magley said.
Magley said he was pleased that Nassirian had decided to purchase the franchise for Bellevue but give himself a year to put the pieces in place to be ready to go in 2019, saying he expected prospective owners in a number of other cities to commit before the end of this year to field teams in year two.
“Having Bellevue to point to will provide a legitimate sales tool for groups in various cities considering thinking about a team,” said Magley, adding that he expected to announce another city planning a 2019 start in the next few days.
Nassirian describes himself as “a serial entrepreneur with proven track record in disruptive technologies and passionate about learning new technologies.”
Since leaving Microsoft, Nassirian has had his business focus on “future challenges in the augmented reality and virtual reality world, including bringing mixed reality technologies to many industries such as education, medical, automotive, manufacturing, and e-commerce.”
Magley, a 6-foot-9 Indiana native, was an academic All-American at the University of Kansas before playing in the NBA briefly for Cleveland and the CBA for Albany as well as in Spain and Belgium.
The geographic spread of the eight teams that will begin play in 2018 break down as four east and four west, with eastern teams in addition to Albany and Rochester being Akron, Ohio, and Owensboro, Kentucky. Western teams are Kansas City, Missouri and Mesquite, Nevada, in addition to Yakima, Washington and Vancouver, B.C.
Publisher’s Note: Bellevue Business Journal would love to see this team successful and would gladly be a media sponsor, but our inquiry to their publicity department was never answered.