Maloof Debacle Reminds Us: Why Even Have Owners?

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterApril 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 02:  Marcus Thornton #23 of the Sacramento Kings shoots against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 2, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 115-107.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Well, it certainly might remind economist David J. Berri, he who wrote, "Do the players--and NBA cities--really need NBA owners?" back during the lockout. Maloof odiousness was the article's focus then, and Maloof odiousness is at the forefront today.

The bumble brothers have pulled the rug out from under Sacramento, lurching towards Anaheim mere weeks after preening before a thankful Kings crowd

From an excellent piece on Pro Basketball Talk by Aaron Bruski:

So in summary, the project is on a tight deadline, needs all the public support it can muster, and the Maloofs are refusing to pay $3.26 million in pre-development costs, or one year of Travis Outlaw’s salary. They’re saying that the handshake agreement David Stern helped to cultivate didn’t go down how every stakeholder said it did. They’re delaying the project by not paying those minimal costs, but saying that they’re also not sure the project will be done on time.

In response, Sacramento business leaders have written a letter to David Stern, questioning whether Joe and Gavin Maloof are financially fit to own the Kings, and suggesting that the brothers should sell the team. 

Considering how the city was already willing to foot most of the bill of a new arena for a franchise that the Maloofs ostensibly own, I wonder: Why shouldn't cities themselves be the majority owners of NBA franchises?

If public money is to be invested in sports teams, the question isn't unreasonable. It's not even an unprecedented occurrence, what with Green Bay's public ownership of the Packers. 

In the background, NBA owners have constructed a system where ping pong balls determine who gets the big stars, and said stars are given increasingly massive financial incentives to stay with those teams.

The biggest stars are also restricted to signing "max" contracts, far below their real value, so NBA owners never have to haggle with the athletes that really matter. This is an auto-pilot league, one where an individual business man's guile matters far less than it should.

So if these great captains of industry have erased their own decision-making from the process of ownership, if they demand that cities pay for their palaces, and if they trend toward the financially insolvent, why have them around in the first place? This isn't true for every owner, but the NBA houses a few that could stand to be replaced by the paying public. 

In the meantime, enjoy the Maloofs basking at center court while "There Goes My Hero" plays.