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Billy Joe 'Red' McCombs, former owner of Spurs, Nuggets and Vikings, dies at 95

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 21: Texas Longhorn alumni and donor, Red McCombs is escorted to the field for the coin toss prior to 13 - 10 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys on October 21, 2017 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Billy Joe "Red" McCombs was a prominent figure in sports, Texas business and philanthropy. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Billy Joe "Red" McCombs, known for once owning the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets and venturing into the NFL to buy the Minnesota Vikings, died Sunday at his home in San Antonio at the age of 95, his family announced Monday in a statement. He was one of Texas' most prominent business people and philanthropists.

"Red was a visionary entrepreneur who touched many lives and impacted our community in immeasurable ways. But to us he was always, first and foremost, 'Dad' or 'Poppop,'" the statement read. "We mourn the loss of a Texas icon."

McCombs bought the ABA's Dallas Chaparrals and relocated the team to San Antonio for the 1973-74 season, when it was renamed. In 1976, he advocated for the Spurs to be integrated into the NBA as part of the ABA-NBA merger.

Hall of Famer George "The Iceman" Gervin contributed greatly to the team's success in 1982, after which McCombs sold his shares of the team. Gervin spoke with the Houston Chronicle about McCombs' impact.

"I can say Red [was] a friend," he said. "The impact he had on this city is unbelievable. We always say, 'Everything Red touches turns to gold.' It's a reality. His vision for this city, his vision for the Spurs."

"We named them [the Spurs] after the city he grew up in [Spur, Texas]. So that tells you a lot about his influence on the Spurs," Gervin added.

McCombs went on to buy the Nuggets, sell them in 1985 and repurchase a stake in the Spurs a year later. In 1988, he bought the team from its investors. He sold it one last time in 1993.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on Monday remembering McCombs for his vision.

"Red McCombs brought the Spurs to San Antonio and was a driving force in creating the modern NBA,” Silver’s statement reads. “He was an innovator and savvy entrepreneur who never shied away from taking risks.

“We mourn Red’s passing and send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends and the Spurs organization.”

McCombs purchased the Vikings in 1998 and sold the team in 2005 for a reported $625 million after issues securing a new stadium. Under his ownership, the Vikings made two NFC championship appearances.

"Red embodied his famous 'Purple Pride' phrase and remained a staunch Vikings fan after passing the torch to the Wilf family in 2005," the team said in a statement released on Twitter. "While Red had a clear passion for sports, it was evident what he loved the most were his children and grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with the McCombs family during this difficult time."

According to the McCombs Enterprises website, McCombs owned more than 400 businesses during his career in the automotive, real estate and energy industries.

An avid University of Texas Longhorns fan, McCombs donated $50 million to the school in May 2000. As a result, the University renamed its business school the McCombs School of Business and in 2013 added an end zone expansion of the football stadium called the "Red McCombs Red Zone."

Former Texas coach Mack Brown released a statement to social media Monday.

"Saddened to hear that Red McCombs has passed away," Brown tweeted. "He was a giant of a man and a dear friend. My life is so much better for having known him and he will definitely be missed. Sending our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends."

McCombs is survived by daughters Lynda McCombs, Marsha Shields and Connie McNab, along with eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. His wife, Charline, died in December 2019.