HomeBasketballLeBron James seeks to bring NBA franchise to Las Vegas

LeBron James seeks to bring NBA franchise to Las Vegas

LeBron James seeks to bring NBA franchise to Las Vegas

Basketball icon LeBron James is teaming up with RedBird Capital Partners and Fenway Sports Group (FSG) in a bid to bring a NBA franchise to the vibrant city of Las Vegas.

James’ longstanding desire to own an NBA team in Nevada has taken a significant step forward, as RedBird Capital founder and managing partner Gerry Cardinale announced the collaboration during the Sports Business Journal’s (SBJ) Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

Cardinale confirmed that his firm, alongside Los Angeles Lakers megastar James and Fenway Sports Group, is actively working towards establishing a new NBA team in Nevada.

However, Cardinale acknowledged the challenges posed by the escalating valuations of NBA franchises, which have seen a substantial increase over the past few years. He revealed that when the project began three years ago, the price for an NBA team was around US$3 billion. In the present landscape, the valuation for an NBA expansion team is in the range of US$5.5 billion to US$6 billion. While expressing uncertainty about making such valuations work, Cardinale hinted at the possibility of involving different types of capital or exploring partnerships with providers with a lower cost of capital.

“Maybe we’re hitting that inflection point, and it may mean that, if we want to see a continued linear progression in these valuations, maybe it’s a different type of capital [that needs to come in],” Cardinale said.

“Maybe I’m evolved out of existence, and maybe now I’m handing the baton over to a sovereign [wealth fund] or to a lower cost-of-capital provider. It could be we’ve reached that point.”

Amid this development, Las Vegas hosted the semi-finals and final of the NBA in-season tournament last week. The Lakers took out the title with a 123-109 victory over India Pacers on Sunday (AEDT), with the 38-year-old James contributing 24 points and 11 rebounds before being named the tournament’s MVP.

Before their semi-final victory over New Orleans Pelicans, James reiterated his ambition to own an NBA franchise in Las Vegas, citing the city’s thriving sports culture as a compelling factor.

“It’s crazy to say, but Vegas is a sports town,” he expressed.

“You look at the Aces, the hockey team, the Raiders, the A’s is coming here. Obviously, we just had F1 here … it’s a sports town. Hopefully I can bring my franchise here someday.

“They [Vegas sports fans] know what they’re watching, they show a lot of support and sports is gigantic here right now. They definitely support their clubs, that’s for sure.”

The most recent NBA expansion team was Charlotte Bobcats, who entered the league in 2004 following Charlotte Hornets’ relocation to New Orleans. The Bobcats subsequently acquired the Hornets’ name and history in 2014, with the rebranded New Orleans Pelicans retroactively recognised as a 2002 entrant to the NBA.

James’ vision aligns with the dynamic sports landscape of Las Vegas, making the prospect of an NBA franchise in the city an exciting venture that could reshape the NBA. As discussions and plans unfold, the collaboration between James, RedBird Capital and Fenway Sports Group promises to be a compelling chapter in the intersection of sports and business.

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