Bill Simmons Predicts NBA Expansion in Las Vegas With LeBron James as Face of Ownership
By Liam McKeone
One of the many side interests LeBron James has in his portfolio is sports team ownership. The NBA champion purchased a minority stake in Fenway Sports Group last year, a collective of individuals with majority stakes in the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bill Simmons believes this is a sign of things to come.
On the latest episode of the BS Podcast, Simmons explained that he's heard chatter that the NBA will bring expansion franchises to Seattle and Las Vegas. Based on how the NBA handled Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets' situation, Simmons thinks the Las Vegas expansion will be spearheaded by LeBron and the FSG, which Simmons says has been sniffing around potentially buying an NBA team to add to their collection of sports franchises.
The most obvious difference between LeBron and Jordan's situations is that LeBron wouldn't be the sole majority owner. There is a possibility that LeBron has enough assets and extremely rich friends to put together his own ownership group where he is the top guy. But that would require far more money than LeBron simply being part of the group that would be the majority owners for an expansion franchise, which he's already set up to do based on his FSG shares.
It would be the best of both worlds for LeBron when you think about it. He could say he owns an NBA team, which would technically be true even if it wasn't solely his. He could also continue to make an obscene amount of money while his partners at FSG would probably defer to him to help create a well-run basketball organization. He wouldn't have to put up most of his net worth and put more than a few financial relationships on the line to make it happen. He'd stay around the game and still wield significant influence in the larger picture of how things work at the league level.
Should Simmons prove to be correct (and it makes sense from just about every angle), it means the timeline for expansion franchises is effectively dependent on LeBron's retirement because he can't be involved in ownership while still playing. If the NBA is ready to make the move while he's still on the court, maybe he'd sell his FSG stake and buy back in afterwards. But with LeBron at 37 years old and understanding these sorts of things move very slowly, it seems more likely the wheels will really begin to turn when The King hangs 'em up.
It really would be ideal for the league. Return a franchise to Seattle and have the most recognizable basketball face of the century spearhead a brand-new NBA endeavor in a potentially very lucrative market. Not too shabby if they're serious about going to 32 teams.