After playing a preseason game in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday, Lakers star LeBron James once again made it known publicly that he wants the NBA to expand to Las Vegas, and that he wants to be part of that expansion team’s ownership group, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I would love to bring a team here at some point. That would be amazing,” James said, before directly addressing NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “I know Adam is in Abu Dhabi right now, I believe. But he probably sees every single interview and transcript that comes through from NBA players. So, I want the team here, Adam. Thank you.”
James previously expressed a desire to own an expansion team in Las Vegas during an episode of his show ‘The Shop: Uninterrupted.’
Las Vegas has been arguably the fastest-growing U.S. sports city in recent years, getting an expansion franchise in the NHL (the Golden Knights) and serving as the new home base for the NFL’s Raiders, who relocated from Oakland. Basketball also has a significant presence in the city — in addition to hosting the NBA’s annual Summer League, Vegas is the home of the 2022 WNBA champions, the Aces.
“I remember a day when you barely knew the NBA was in the city during Summer League,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said on Wednesday, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. “Now it’s a huge extravaganza. It’s a whole rollout, a whole layout of excitement and entertainment built around those 14 or 15 days the guys are here. I think Las Vegas is a hotbed for entertainment, obviously, and having the Raiders here now and the Aces.
“… I think it’s only a matter of time before Jerry West shows up permanently — that logo is on the jersey representing the city of Las Vegas. I think it’s a great city, the natural organic energy that’s here built into the city, it goes hand in hand with the level of sports that have been considered to be placed here. … It’s a no-brainer. Down the road, I don’t want to speak for the NBA or the commissioner, but I think at some point you’ll see a permanent NBA team here calling Las Vegas home.”
While Las Vegas and Seattle have been the subject of expansion rumors for years, Silver and the NBA have consistently pushed that conversation down the road. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), the league intends to negotiate its new television deal and Collective Bargaining Agreement before seriously considering expansion. So while the prospect of expanding to Vegas and Seattle is legitimate, it’s probably still a few years away.
That timeline would work out well for James, who is under contract for at least two more years, with a player option for the 2024/25 season. He would have to be retired as a player in order to own a team, according to McMenamin, who notes that LeBron would also need to link up with a deep-pocketed partner — the longtime NBA star reportedly has a net worth exceeding $1 billion, but a new NBA franchise would cost significantly more than that.
As James makes a public push for expansion to Vegas, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times explores where things stand in Seattle, another city that is hosting NBA preseason games this fall. Those preseason games are being played at the Climate Pledge Arena, which was developed by the Oak View Group at the site of the SuperSonics’ old home, KeyArena. CEO Tim Leiweke believes the building is ready for an NBA team, but said he doesn’t want to pressure Silver and the league into making a decision.
“You don’t want to get ahead of the league, you don’t want to force a decision,” Leiweke said. “You don’t want to think at the end of the day that you have leverage or you have the ability to force an issue like this. You don’t. This is really first and foremost if and when Adam and the Board of Governors want to even consider it.”