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LeBron James: ‘I want the team’ when NBA comes to Las Vegas

Updated October 6, 2022 - 10:12 am

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James on Wednesday night expressed in the clearest terms yet his desire to own an NBA franchise in Las Vegas.

Speaking to reporters after a 119-115 preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns at T-Mobile Arena, James called the fan base in Las Vegas “wonderful.”

“I would love to bring a team here at some point,” James said, flashing a grin. “That would be amazing.”

He then directly addressed NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “I want the team here, Adam,” James said. “Thank you.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak took to Twitter Thursday morning to show support for James’ plea to Silver.

“@KingJames, we’re ready,” Sisolak tweeted. “We’d be happy to have you here in the #SportsCapital of the world.”

James has previously expressed his interest in owning an NBA team in Las Vegas, particularly on a June episode of his YouTube show, “The Shop: Uninterrupted.”

“I want to buy a team. For sure,” he said on the show. “I would much rather own a team before I talk (on television). I want a team in Vegas. I want the team in Vegas.”

Rumors have swirled about the NBA’s desire to expand, particularly to the Las Vegas and Seattle markets, though NBA officials have repeatedly declined to commit to adding new franchises.

Silver told the Review-Journal this summer that it was more reasonable to have those discussions after the NBA’s next media rights deal is signed. The current deal is set to expire after the 2024-25 season.

That could play in Las Vegas’ favor. With the media landscape shifting, with streaming services becoming more prevalent across all professional sports, that Southern Nevada is a mid-sized TV market might be not be viewed so much as a drawback to placing a franchise here.

“How we divvy up our (media) rights going forward will impact the value of a franchise here (Las Vegas),” Silver said in July.

Las Vegas is already home to the NFL, NHL and WNBA, with other leagues being in various levels of exploring the area.

Silver noted in July that he thinks the Las Vegas Valley, with more than 2 million residents and its robust tourism industry, can support all major league teams.

“My personal view is there’s room for everybody,” Silver said. “I think in part because it is a very nontraditional market.”

The MLB’s Oakland Athletics have been making trips to Las Vegas over the past year-and-a-half researching the market for a potential relocation. The club is down to two sites where a $1 billion ballpark could be built, one on the south Strip where the Tropicana is located and on the north end of the Strip where the Las Vegas Festival Grounds sit.

Oakland officials and the A’s last month missed a key agreement deadline on the team’s planned Howard Terminal ballpark project in the Bay Area, making the possibility of the team moving to the desert more of a possibility.

Billionaires Wes Edens and Naseef Sawiris entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement earlier this year with Major League Soccer looking at bringing a franchise to Las Vegas. That process is still ongoing.

Edens is co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group, which through an affiliate, owns Brightline, a high-speed passenger rail company. The company is looking to connect Southern California and Southern Nevada via high-speed passenger rail.

Brightline announced it would build its Las Vegas rail station on a portion of more than 300 acres of land on Las Vegas Boulevard between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond roads. Edens and Sawiris could also construct an MLS stadium next to the rail station, if they finalize an agreement with the league.

That same plot of land is also the location where an NBA team could also land someday in Las Vegas.

Oak View Group announced this year their plans to build a $3 billion project that includes a $1 billion NBA-ready arena and a hotel-casino. Silver and OVG have noted they do not have an agreement with the NBA that if they build the arena a team will follow.

OVG includes CEO Tim Leiweke, former president of the Denver Nuggets, and co-founder Irving Azoff has a lengthy track record of constructing and operating arena projects. Oak View’s Las Vegas team includes former Raiders president Marc Badain, a key player in the team relocating to Southern Nevada and the construction of Allegiant Stadium.

Silver said he knows Leiweke and Azoff well, calling them veterans of the sports and entertainment industry.

“It always helps to have first-class facilities in a market,” Silver said. “I have enormous confidence in them (Oak View Group), but we’re not yet at the point where we’re engaged with anyone directly.”

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter. Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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