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A scandalous Jewish NBA rivalry is taking shape — in the owner’s box


Fourteen of the NBA’s 30 franchise owners are Jewish. Two of them absolutely despise each other. And it has nothing to do with basketball.

Instead, it’s about — wait for it — mortgages.

The rivalry between Mat Ishbia, owner of the Phoenix Suns, and Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, dates to long before Ishbia bought the Suns in 2022. Their companies — Ishbia’s United Wholesale Mortgage and Gilbert’s Rocket Mortgage — have for years battled to be the nation’s biggest mortgage lender.

But the sale revealed the depths of resentment between them. While the NBA’s other 28 owners voted to approve the deal, Gilbert, who has owned the Cavaliers since 2003, abstained.

A new report from ESPN, which is broadcasting Wednesday’s Suns-Cavaliers game — if you find courtside drama irresistible, tune in — describes the origins of the mutual disdain. The driving force: Ishbia’s cutthroat business tactics as UWM grew from a tiny office in Pontiac, Michigan, into a ruthless corporate behemoth that overtly blackballs brokers who work with Rocket.

Meanwhile, the two billionaires live 15 minutes apart in the same Detroit suburb — both are Michigan natives — and have reportedly never met in person. (We must ask: Do they attend the same synagogue?)

Ishbia, who was once named high school athlete of the year by his hometown Jewish paper, has seemingly made taking down Gilbert’s Rocket a singular focus. (Gilbert is a former board member of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and a past president of JARC, a Detroit-based Jewish nonprofit.) When UWM passed Rocket in mortgage originations, Ishbia left a coworker a voicemail disparaging the company, saying, “I f—ing hate ‘em with all my heart.” (The audio below contains further profanity.)

Suns owner Mat Ishbia went off on Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s rival business in a leaked voicemail:

“We f**king took those c**ksuckers down. F**k them, and we’re gonna keep f**king sticking it to ’em forever. F**k those guys, we’re number one.”

MUCH more from a bombshell…

— Pablo Torre Finds Out (@pablofindsout) April 2, 2024

So: Whatever they have in common, Jewishly and geographically — and, it feels safe to assume, Jewish-geographically — has not translated into collegiality, And while the business savagery has only really occurred in one direction — the closest Rocket has gotten to a counter-strike was covering independent brokers’ antitrust lawsuits against UWM — it doesn’t sound like Gilbert will invite the Ishbias to the next family simcha. Maybe a bowl of red lentils will settle it?

The post A scandalous Jewish NBA rivalry is taking shape — in the owner’s box appeared first on The Forward.