Leslie Alexander assumed ownership of the Houston Rockets on July 30, 1993, and – over the last 22 years – has devoted his efforts to making his teams champions both on the basketball court and in the community. Alexander's dedication to winning has resulted in two NBA championships with the Rockets and four WNBA titles during his 10-year (1997-2006) operation of the Houston Comets, giving Houston its first major professional sports championships. Only one other NBA teams has posted more winning seasons than the Rockets (18) during Alexander's tenure as owner. Additionally, Houston's winning percentage (.567, 996-760) is the sixth best in the league over that same 22-season time frame. Off the court, the Rockets franchise has set the standard for community involvement.
"I've always believed that sports teams are in the unique position to make a real difference in their communities," Alexander said. "When I bought the Rockets, that was my dream. I hoped to make a difference for the people of Houston, both emotionally and financially."
In 2008, Forbes recognized the integral role Alexander has played in his team's success by naming him the NBA's best owner. Alexander was also named by SI.com (Sports Illustrated) as one of the five best owners in the league in 2008-09. Alexander, who has held the longest ownership tenure in franchise history, continues to strive for peak success both on and off the court.
Now 22 seasons into his ownership, Alexander has taken his championship tandem of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and molded it into the current pairing of Dwight Howard and James Harden. The dominant center and dynamic guard combination that delivered a second consecutive title in 1995 has been reborn with that same aspiration of bringing another championship to Houston.
An active participant in all phases of the team's operations, Alexander has continually proven his commitment to success. Since naming Daryl Morey as the successor to Carroll Dawson as general manager of the team, Alexander's Rockets have recorded the third-longest winning streak in NBA history (22 in a row: 1/29/08-3/16/08) and posted 50-plus victories in three consecutive seasons (2006-09) for the first time in club annals. On June 1, 2011, Alexander hired Hall-of-Famer Kevin McHale as just the 12th head coach in team history.
Since his arrival, Alexander has spared no expense in engineering numerous bold moves designed to make the Rockets a perennial contender:
- In 1995, Alexander orchestrated a deal with Portland to acquire Houston native Clyde Drexler. The trade helped to deliver Houston's second consecutive title just four months later.
- In 1996, Alexander signed Hakeem Olajuwon to a long-term contract extension and obtained NBA All-Star Charles Barkley from Phoenix.
- In 1999, Alexander acquired the rights to Steve Francis from Vancouver.
- In 2002, the Rockets made history with the top pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by selecting Yao Ming, making him the first-ever player from an international league to be drafted first overall.
- In 2004, Alexander approved a seven-player trade with Orlando to bring in two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady.
- In 2005, Alexander signed Yao to a multi-year contract extension.
- In 2006, Alexander endorsed the acquisition of Shane Battier from Memphis.
- In 2007, Alexander authorized the trade for international-star Luis Scola.
- In 2010, Alexander authorized a three-team, nine-player trade that netted Kevin Martin from Sacramento and sent McGrady to New York.
- In 2011, Alexander named McHale as head coach.
- In 2012, Alexander brought in restricted free agents Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, as well as signing off on the blockbuster deal to acquire James Harden.
- In 2013, Alexander brought eight-time NBA All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to Houston.
- In 2015, Alexander approved the trade for Ty Lawson from Denver.
Since 1993, Alexander has dedicated himself to building the Rockets in every area. His vision to construct a downtown arena took shape in Nov. 2000, as Harris County voters approved a referendum to build a new home for the Rockets. Groundbreaking for the arena took place on July 31, 2001. Alexander's tireless efforts became a reality in Sept. 2003 with the opening of Toyota Center – Houston's state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility.
In 2010, Alexander and Toyota Center earned LEED Silver Certification for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), making Toyota Center the first professional sports facility in Texas to receive a LEED Certification. Awarded by the USGBC under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, the certification identifies and rewards best practices by a building in areas that include energy conservation, environmental awareness, water efficiency and natural resource performance.
While Alexander's teams have enjoyed success on the basketball court, unique to the Houston franchise is its off-the-court commitment to the community. Building a better quality of life for Houstonians is a driving force for Alexander and his organization.
In 1995, Alexander established the Clutch City Foundation with the goal of providing help, hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be forgotten. The Clutch City Foundation funds and operates comprehensive programs benefiting thousands of children each year, as well as serving as the umbrella organization for all Rockets community initiatives. Over 18 years of active community involvement has resulted in over $15 million raised for local charities, allowing the Rockets to impact tens of thousands of Houstonians each year. One of its premier fundraising events is the Clutch City Foundation Tux & Tennies Charity Gala, which has raised over $5 million since 1996. Alexander and the Clutch City Foundation have also aided international efforts spearheaded by Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo, committing $850,000 to help those devastated by the earthquake in China on May 12, 2008, and to assist in building the Women & Children's Center within the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"It's so important to me that the Rockets find a way to thank the fans for their overwhelming support," Alexander said. "One way we try to do that is by reaching out to young people and those who are under-served in our community through our community programs and fundraising initiatives."
Alexander and the Rockets organization have received numerous community service awards, including the Pro Team Community Award in 1997, given by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. The award recognizes one professional team each year that exemplifies community service and acts as a catalyst for community pride and spirit.
In 1998, Alexander's organization was awarded the Leadership Houston "Leadership in Action" Award for outstanding community service to education, one year after winning the same award for outstanding community service to youth.
Alexander and the Rockets were also honored with the 2005 Texas Association of Partners in Education "Outstanding Business Partnership" award in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The Clutch City Foundation was also inducted into the HISD Partners Hall of Fame for understanding the value of education, as well as an active commitment to enhancing the educational experiences of HISD students.
When flooding from Tropical Storm Allison devastated the Houston area in June 2001, the franchise helped to raise over $230,000 for flood relief by auctioning off hundreds of memorabilia items, including authentic rings from each of the organization's six championships. In addition to donating all of the memorabilia for the auction along with the funds raised, Alexander, the NBA and WNBA contributed $150,000 to the flood relief effort.
Since 2002, Alexander has donated over $1 million to the Houston Chronicle project, Goodfellows, which provides holiday gifts to needy children. In addition to several of the largest single contributions in the program's history, Alexander hosts an annual holiday party for the Goodfellows children and their families.
In Sept. 2005, just days after Hurricane Katrina ravaged many parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, Alexander immediately stepped in to assist the thousands of displaced residents who took shelter in Houston by organizing Houston HopeFest. The unprecedented three-day relief effort held at Toyota Center consisted of a day-long donation drive, followed by two days of providing basic humanitarian assistance, which included job skills training and placement services, housing assistance, as well as medical and counseling services.
After Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area in Sept. 2008, Alexander quickly responded to help those individuals affected by the storm. In conjunction with Feed the Children, Alexander purchased several semi-truck loads of pre-packaged, non-perishable food and basic essential toiletries. Rockets players and staff then distributed those supplies to area residents on Sept. 18, 2008. Alexander also named the Bush-Clinton Coastal Recovery Fund as a beneficiary of the 2009 Tux & Tennies Charity Gala, raising an additional $100,000 to assist with the rebuilding efforts in Houston and along the Gulf Coast.
In 2009, Alexander's organization teamed with Memorial Hermann and The University of Texas Medical School at Houston to create the Memorial Hermann Foundation – HEARTS program (Houston Early Age Risk Testing and Screening). A first-of-its-kind program in the United States, HEARTS aims to reach out to children who may be, or already are, at-risk for life threatening but correctable heart abnormalities. This integrated youth screening program helps to detect potential heart problems that without the program might go undetected.
In July 2011, Alexander and the team launched the Rockets Give Back community outreach. Rockets Give Back launched with the "10,000 Hugs-to-Help" fundraising campaign to assist the three surviving children of Houston residents Joshua and Robin Berry, who were killed in a tragic automobile accident in July 2011, as well as a Charity of the Month program where team members spend time volunteering in the community.
Alexander and the Rockets also raised $65,000 to support 100 military families in need of assistance during the holidays by donating proceeds of all single-game ticket sales from the 2011 preseason opener vs. San Antonio (12/17/11). The Rockets partnered with the Veteran's Administration Hospital to identify families of service members in need.
Alexander is Chairman of the Board of the Clutch City Foundation and sits on the Board of Directors of Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital, as well as the Houston Police Foundation. He was also the recipient of the 2009 American Advertising Federation-Houston Trailblazer Award, which recognizes an influential business leader for enhancing the overall image of Houston through marketing. In addition, Alexander is a staunch animal-rights advocate, and founded the Evelyn Alexander Home for Animals Foundation, which strives to provide a permanent home to abandoned and abused animals. Alexander has also donated $2.5 million to the Humane Society of the United States and millions of dollars to other charitable causes worldwide. In December 2014, Alexander prvoided Rescued Pets Movement, Inc. (RPM) funding to build Jack C. Alexander Building in honor of Mr. Alexander's late father. RPM provides second chance housing for homeless dogs and cats through rehabilitation and transport in the Greater Houston Area and the new facility will serve as a clinic and aid in the rehabilitation of homeless animals.
Through the Clutch City Foundation, Alexander and his organization will continue to make a difference in the lives of Houstonians for years to come.