Obama statement on death of NBA owner Abe Pollin

President Barack Obama on Wednesday mourned the passing of Abe Pollin, the late owner of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Washington Wizards.

One of Washington's most widely admired philanthropists, Pollin passed away on Tuesday afternoon at the age of 85. He is credited with bringing the professional basketball and hockey teams to Washington in the 1970s. A real estate developer by trade, Pollin also constructed the Verizon (nee MCI) Center, which is often credited with revitalizing downtown Washington in the 1990s.

"Abe believed in Washington, D.C. when many others didn’t – putting his own fortune on the line to help revitalize the city he loved," the president said in a statement. "He was committed to the teams he guided, generous to those who needed it most, and as loyal to the people of D.C. as they were to him."

Obama called Pollin "a giant in the world of professional sports and someone I was proud to call a friend."

Aside from owning a number of professional sports tems, Pollin was active in many local philanthropies.

Pollin bought the then Baltimore Bullets in 1964 and later moved the team in 1973 to the newly built Capital Centre in Landover, Md. The Bullets won the NBA championship in 1978, and Pollin is shown here embracing player Wes Unseld after the big win. Pollin was awarded the expansion Washington Capitals in 1974. Both teams moved to the then MCI Center in 1997. Pollin built the arena using his own funds during a time when many sports owners sought public funds for sports venues.

Pollin sold the Capitals to AOL executive Ted Leonsis in 1999. Pollin also owned the Women's National Basketball Association's Washington Mystics from their inception in 1998, which he later sold to Leonsis.