The Las Vegas Kings? The Las Vegas Mambas? The Las Vegas LeBrons?
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said on Friday’s episode of ‘The Shop’ on HBO that he wants to own an NBA team once his playing career is done, and he has his eyes set on that team being in Las Vegas.
Currently, the NBA has no basketball team in Las Vegas and no immediate plans to expand. There is not an NBA arena in Vegas either, although one is being built. If, and when, the NBA puts a team there, will LeBron have the goods to purchase it? We aren’t talking millions here, we’re talking billions, with a B.
What did LeBron actually say?
Cut to midway through The Shop and the conversation of celebrity guests is talking about their future.
Maverick Carter, who is a celebrity because he’s friends with LeBron, initially asks LeBron whether he would do TV commentary after his playing career is done. LeBron says yes, laughing about seeing all the money Tom Brady was promised for his television deal ($375 million).
Then the conversation turns to LeBron using his Twitter platform to stay connected to the game and showing his knowledge of the sport and how he can tweet something during the NBA finals and it pops up on the TV broadcast just minutes later.
“I am letting people know that I am still engaged. And I know everything about the sport, literally, everything and I want to continue to help our sport grow,” LeBron said.
Carter, who probably already knows the answer, asks what LeBron wants to do next and LeBron doesn’t hesitate:
“I want to own a team. I want to buy a team for sure. I want a team in Vegas.”
There are no follow-up questions.
Does LeBron have the LeMoney?
LeBron was just certified a billionaire by Forbes magazine, and this is always speculation (LeBron hasn’t shown me his checkbook) but he’s made around $400 million in his playing career and $900 million in endorsements.
I didn’t know that many people saw Space Jam 2.
LeBron is already part of the Fenway Sports Group which owns Liverpool in the English Premier Soccer League and is a part owner of the Boston Red Sox. Those are pretty good investments.
Then it comes down to how much will an NBA franchise cost? Could LeBron buy an existing franchise that is struggling and move them to Las Vegas, or could he wait for the NBA to expand?
The last time the NBA expanded was in 2004 in Charlotte with the Bobcats (now Hornets). The Minnesota Timberwolves sold for $1.5 billion in 2021.
The NBA can – and will – name its price for an expansion franchise. Vegas and Seattle are the two easy choices. It would probably love to keep LeBron around the sport and enjoy the racial diversity he would bring to the owner’s room. In other words, the NBA would probably do what it could to make LeBron an owner.
Would LeBron be a good owner?
Let’s play it forward. LeBron is now 37. His Lakers contract expires next year. He’s also said in the past he wants to play a year with his son before retiring. Could LeBron, Bronny (now 17) all team up in Las Vegas? Bronny will be eligible for the NBA Draft in 2024. Could LeBron be an owner/player? That would be historic.
The bad news is that the NBA has already seen one of its greatest players, ok, the greatest, Michael Jordan, become an owner. Jordan is the owner of the Hornets and the franchise has struggled under his guidance. Charlotte just finished 43-39, their first winning season since 2015-2016, but has been plagued by poor player decisions.
This is easily explained in that players like LeBron, MJ, Kobe and Allen Iverson are wired differently than anyone else on the planet and can’t relate to players who don’t have the same competitive fire that they have. They’re ballers, not businessmen.
It’s also a potentially messy situation if LeBron is the owner and Bronny is on the team. What’s a coach supposed to do then? What if Bronny is lousy? Who tells the owner that his son stinks?
LeBron has won four NBA titles in his career with three different franchises. He has business experience but being a successful owner in the NBA is a new type of challenge.