Michael Jordan is the only former NBA great who currently serves as the majority owner of one of the league’s 30 teams. However, LeBron James – who is often mentioned alongside Jordan in discussions on the league’s all-time best players – would like to join the former Bulls great in the ownership ranks someday. And, as Joe Vardon explains in an interesting piece for The Athletic, James is uniquely positioned to actually make it happen.
According to Vardon, if James were to retire today and an NBA franchise went up for sale tomorrow, the four-time MVP would be in position to place a bid, given his net worth, his connections, and the cache he has built up around the league.
“Ain’t no maybe about it, I’m going to do that s–t,” James told Vardon, referring to eventually owning an NBA franchise.
As Vardon outlines, James doesn’t have “Steve Ballmer money” and couldn’t just write a check to purchase an NBA franchise outright, but a majority owner is only required to purchase 15% of a team’s shares. While LeBron’s estimated net worth is $450MM, per Forbes, that estimate likely undershoots the actual figure, according to Vardon, who notes that James has made a number of private investments and maneuvers in recent years that would push the number higher.
With the right group of investors and partners, James would easily be able to put together a group capable of making a strong bid for any franchise that goes up for sale, as LeBron’s business associate Paul Wachter tells Vardon.
“I would say it would take about five calls to find partners if LeBron wanted to pull together an ownership group,” Wachter said. “If LeBron sat down with his team to discuss it, it would take maybe two or three calls apiece. I could tell you people I’d call to be involved now, but of course LeBron has his own ideas and Maverick [Carter] has his ideas.”
This is, of course, unlikely to happen anytime soon, as James is in the first season of a four-year contract with the Lakers and is planning to continue playing beyond that deal, per Vardon. However, when the time comes, it sounds like LeBron will be ready, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst wrote in his own story on the subject earlier this week.
Meanwhile, James’ good friend Dwyane Wade is headed for retirement at season’s end, and while Wade isn’t necessarily as well positioned to purchase a franchise, the idea of owning a team intrigues him too, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Wade has previously mentioned the appeal of becoming part of an ownership group that would bring the NBA back to Seattle, but told reporters this week that he’s not solely focused on one city.
“I love Seattle,” Wade said. “It’s great, Unfortunately it’s not a part of the NBA. When a question was asked what franchise you want to see back, Seattle was one for me. And we talking about who I want to be ownership of, Miami has first dibs and then I go from there. … Obviously, this organization (the Heat) is the first one I would love to talk about that when the time is right.”
As Jackson observes, Heat majority owner Micky Arison hasn’t shown any interest in selling the club, but he might – hypothetically – be open to selling a small share of the franchise to Wade, who could serve as a minority stakeholder after he retires as a player. As with LeBron though, that’s likely a discussion to be had down the road.