Sunday Musings: Final battle for Kings is here, Sacramento appears ready for challenge

Kevin Johnson in his Sacramento Kings jacket. (Photo: Steven Chea)

The final battle is here.

A dark cloud has hung over the Sacramento Kings since this relocation saga began some 26 months ago.

There has been cause for celebration, like when the NBA asked the Maloofs to give Sacramento another year to solidify an arena plan after their flirtation with Anaheim and again when an agreement was reached with the family to build the complex last year.

The most recent celebration ended with a thud when the Maloofs pulled the rug out from underneath the NBA-approved deal and it took a major turn for the worse when a “binding agreement” was reached to sell the Kings to Seattle-based investors.

Fans have been on an amazing ride of emotions that will soon end in either complete jubilation or utter demoralization.  They are used to the ride, but it is ending very soon.

This is it.  Be it on Apr. 3 or following the Apr. 18-19 Board of Governors meetings in New York, we will have a resolution.  Sacramento will either remain an NBA city or vanish from the world of major league sports.

What an incredible reality.

As I type this, a term sheet has just been finalized for a new entertainment and sports center in downtown Sacramento.  A new ownership group is in place to take over for the struggling Maloof family.  Sacramento’s bid to keep the team is all but in place.

But the final decision rests in the hands of others.  There is no clue what will sway them one way or another.  If ever there were a roll of the dice to cement someone’s fate, it is now.

Mayor Kevin Johnson has amazed even his staunch supporters.  When the chips are down, Johnson and his crack team have delivered again and again.  What has been accomplished in just two months time, let alone the last two years is nothing short of miraculous.

He has staved off NBA elimination, while successfully putting together two separate arena deals.  And if that wasn’t enough, he has now assembled a team investors we are calling “Run BMV”.

The addition of Vivek Ranadivé to an already stellar prospective ownership group that includes Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle is a boost.  But will it be enough to keep the Kings in Sacramento?

I think it will be enough and let me tell you why.

I believe that the NBA is looking for men like Burkle, Mastrov and Ranadivé to join their club.

While these three men have plenty of money in their pockets, similar to other NBA owners, this group represents a different breed of cash infusion.

These men are pioneers and self-made.  They are examples of a new generation of professional sports owners that earned their way to the top and are ready to use those learned skills to change the way the game is thought of both locally and globally.

They are the next step from the Mark Cubans of the world.  They have built themselves from very humble beginnings by using the power of business savvy and ingenuity, turning themselves into icons in their respective fields of business.

This is what you want in an owner.  You want owners that are hungry to win and ready to analyze and approach the NBA in a different way.  You want people who look at a small market team and see the opportunity that it represents, not fear the lack of fortune 500 companies or judge a fanbase that has been worn to the nub.

There are a lot of ways to skin a cat and this intriguing trio of Burkle, Mastrov and Ranadivé has figured out a way to build their own private empires in shocking fashion outside the NBA bubble.

While their successes have come away from professional sports, all three of these men are very well known in NBA circles.  Burkle has ties to a handful of owners who concurrently own NHL franchises through his stake in the Pittsburg Penguins.  Mastrov was vetted as an NBA owner through his attempt to purchase the Golden State Warriors.  And Ranadivé is part of the ownership group that eventually beat out Mastrov’s bid in the bay area.

All three men have different specialties, but they seem engaged and ready to change the face of an entire community as a group.

There is nothing wrong with the bid from Seattle, but this has never been about the Sonics.  Relocation is a last resort for the NBA.  This has always been about finding the right person to own and operate the Sacramento Kings.

I believe the Burkle/Mastrov/Ranadivé team is the right group to do just that.  Hopefully, they will be given the chance to prove me right.


James Ham

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