For the first time in 30 years, NBA All-Star weekend is coming to Salt Lake City.
Starting on Friday, the league’s best players and a variety of special guests will gather for a three-day long showcase of basketball.
Jazz owner Ryan Smith was there as a kid in 1993 the last time Utah hosted the festivities. He and his wife Ashley will serve as the de facto hosts as the NBA world descends upon their home state.
MORE: Watch the 2023 NBA All-Star Game on Sling TV: Sign up today!
“We are a basketball state, this is a basketball community,” Smith said. “This is a really important moment for our state to shine.”
But who is Ryan Smith? How did that young fan end up becoming the owner of the Jazz? Here’s everything you need to know about Utah’s majority owner ahead of the 2023 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City:
Who is Ryan Smith?
Smith has served as the owner of the Jazz since October 2020, when he purchased a majority stake from previous owner Gail Miller. The Miller family had owned the franchise since 1986, when Larry H. Miller bought the team from founder Sam Battistone.
Before he entered the basketball world, Smith amassed a personal fortune as the founder and CEO of Qualtrics, an experience management company based in Provo, Utah. The company pioneered survey software used by websites around the world. If you’ve ever taken an online survey, there’s a very good chance it used technology developed by Qualtrics.
Smith founded the company with his dad during his time as a student at Brigham Young University. He dropped out during his junior year to focus on his career, but returned to earn his degree in 2016. His net worth is now rumored to be around $1.5 billion, per Forbes.
The 44-year-old is also a co-owner of MLS franchise Real Salt Lake, Utah’s only other major professional sports franchise. He currently lives in Utah with his wife, Ashley and their five children.
Smith is good friends with former NBA star Dwyane Wade, whom he met on the golf course in 2019. Their relationship led Wade to purchase a minority stake in the Jazz in 2021.
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Who are the captains for the 2023 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game?
Smith and Wade will serve as honorary captains for the 2023 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game this Friday, Feb. 17.
✨ A little friendly competition never hurt anyone ✨
Introducing your *stylish* captains for the 2023 Ruffles NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. @ryanqualtrics | @dwyanewade pic.twitter.com/Dd7NkJ6wfz
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) February 8, 2023
“It’s about this state, it’s about this city, it’s about the entertainment, the joy, the fun,” Wade said. “But it’s also about charity. It’s going to be great. We’re going to compete, we’re going to have fun, but it’s bigger than us.”
Smith and Wade will be joined on the floor by 22 other celebrities in the exhibition game. Here’s a look at the full rosters for their respective teams:
🌟 The 2023 #RufflesCelebGame rosters! 🌟#RufflesCelebGame: Friday, Feb. 17 on ESPN pic.twitter.com/v3MVQ7WP2q
— NBA (@NBA) February 8, 2023
Notable participants from the sports world include D.K. Metcalf, Calvin Johnson, Arike Ogunbowale, Albert Pujols and Frances Tiafoe.