An ESPN-JTA Collaboration Doesn’t Happen Often

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Some sad news to pass along if you are a sports fan or have an interest in Jewish philanthropy. Bill Davidson, the owner of the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Shock (as well, as past owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning), died this weekend.

What makes Davidson so interesting is that he was so involved in his two interests, sports and Jewish causes, that depending on where you read an obituary for him, you will hear two entirely different stories.

Bill_davidson.jpg First, you have his sports side. In 1974, Davidson bought his hometown basketball team, the Pistons, a team that had lost money for the past 20 years or so. Davidson transformed the team into a profitable enterprise, moving the team out of downtown Detroit to the more profitable Auburn Hills.

Under his ownership, the Pistons won 3 NBA Championships. In what is possibly one of the most improbable feats for any owner to have, in 2003-2004, Davidson’s three teams, the Pistons, the Shock and the Lightning, all won the championships in their respectful leagues.

But this is only half the story for Davidson. Being the Billionaire that he was, he decided to focus many of his philanthropic efforts in the Jewish community, both here in the North America and in Israel. Perhaps his two most noteworthy (but not his only two) were the $75 Million he gave to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem and his donations to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where their Jewish Education school is named after him.

I always thought about going to Davidson at JTS (if you’re my parents, please don’t read too much into that), mostly because I thought it would be cool for me and Rasheed Wallace to have the same boss.

Bill Davidson, the Jewish world and the Basketball world will miss you.

Posted on March 16, 2009

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