I burned a lot of pixels a few months back puzzling over the adulation that greeted the stateside arrival of shady Russian oligarch turned Avery Johnson-hiring, Travis Outlaw-overpaying shady Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. I did this because I’m a serial pixel-burner, and because I am always willing to dump a bunch of prose on the topic of my relationship with the Nets. But Prokhorov and the reaction he evoked is stranger to me than the usual wealth-stroking/luxury-ogling response you expect from places like the New York Post (or, with longer words, the New York Times).
That’s because Prokhorov (above, left) is a different type of dodgeball billionaire than we’re used to — a creepy Chamber of Commerce glad-hander like Clay Bennett is just a different animal. Dan Gilbert breaks out the childish, comic sans outrage; Prokhorov cuts business deals with nation-destroying despots and obstructs justice and rips off his investors. His is not a Sunday Styles piece, it’s a can-you-believe-shit-in-other-countries story from the middle of the news section.
Except, of course, that it’s not. Prokhorov is proof that nothing — certainly not an abject lack of knowledge or interest in basketball — can disqualify someone from owning a NBA team except for a lack of ready funds. But he’s also proof that our broader and ever-more-baffling national cultural hard-on for the super-rich has now lasted more than six hours, and that we should definitely contact a physician. It’s baffling both because our revered domestic Lords of Capital kneecapped our economy with their abject avarice and fraudulent genius, but also because, at a personal level, there’s not a whole lot to like about paranoid, entitled plutocrats like the Koch brothers or dodgy, SkiDoo-jockey playboys like Prokhorov. Yes, it might be nice to have a yacht of one’s own or whatever, but a creep is a creep, whatever the contents of said creep’s bank account. Given that Prokhorov has shown no real aptitude for anything except spending his sketchily-obtained gains in cartoonish ways, there’s not seemingly a whole lot to admire, there.
Which isn’t to say the guy isn’t great copy while proving (and re-proving) all the above. From throwing money at the goofiest of causes — I’m talking about signing Jordan Farmar, here — to, um, continuing to throw money at the goofiest of causes, Prokhorov does at least bring the storylines. Prokhorov’s most recent innovation — which is actually a page out of The Lenny Dykstra Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ Playbook — is so goofily named that it reads like overstated Gary Shteyngart-grade satire, and so poorly reasoned, frankly tacky and massively over-budgeted that it could only have come from Prokhorov. Here’s the story, from Stefan Bondy of the Daily News:
If you™re super rich, speak Russian and live in New York City, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is supplying you with the perfect reading material. It™s a magazine called œSNOB (that™s right, Prokhorov is richer than you and not ashamed of it) and it went on sale in the U.S. last week for a price of $8. There™s no English translation, so this is strictly for the Russian-speaking snobs who want to read about extravagant ways to spend Rubles. (In Russian, S.N.O.B. is an acronym for the Russian words accomplished, independent, educated and thriving).
According to this Bloomberg report, Prokhorov invested $100 million into this Snob project, which he hopes will attract the large population of Russian immigrants in Brooklyn to games in the Barclays Center.
If the financial crisis gave us anything — beyond a busted discourse, the ubiquity of Glenn Beck’s tiny piglike eyes, and a shocking uptick in freaked-out bigotry — it was the non-revelation that the super-rich people to whom our culture has given a decades-long handjob might not actually be as deserving of respect as we’d been conditioned to believe. That hasn’t quite sunk in yet, evidently. Prokhorov, for his part, seems intent on driving the message home, though, through his combination of outsized playboy fatuity and dedication to getting things wrong. For whatever wake-up call his ridiculousness might wind up providing, I guess, we should be thankful. And of course if he creates some journalism jobs along the way, I guess I can’t be too mad at him.