Ellison Should Forget About Warriors, Take the Entrepreneur's Route

Major ClausenContributor IFebruary 19, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 11:  Co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation Larry Ellison watches the Golden State Warriors play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena on January 11, 2010 in Oakland, California.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The NBA would be much better off with a second team in the Bay Area as opposed to continuing to stick with one in a lousy market like Memphis.

And that possibility could become a reality by as early as 2012 if Warriors owner Chris Cohan stiff arms a few more of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s proposals to buy the team. While a franchise like Memphis continues to rank last in the league in attendance despite possessing a young team that is on the rise, it is also true that San Jose (the tenth-largest city in the country) only possesses one pro sports franchise.

Talk of an NBA team potentially coming to San Jose came out of an extraordinarily powerful mouth on Feb. 16 when Oracle CEO and recent America’s Cup winner Larry Ellison told the USA Today that he has pondered purchasing an NBA team and relocating it to San Jose, but it also hinges on the fact that Cohan continually disregards his interest in buying Golden State (Ellison said that Cohan has rejected the “few” proposals that he has made over the “last several years” up to this point).

The San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami, for one, thinks that the Warriors will be Ellison’s by no later than this summer, though I am considerably more skeptical.

It’s a win-win situation for Ellison, as it would be tough for a man of his intellect to construct a worst product than Cohan has up to this point if he were to purchase the Warriors. On the other hand, his reputation amongst Steve Jobs and his entrepreneurial peers in Silicon Valley would continue to sky-rocket to Mars if he was to take the riskier route and move another city’s team to San Jose, before using his savvy business and management skills to craft an NBA Championship team that Cohan has only seen in his imagination.

The status and pride that the latter could generate for the ambitious Ellison is why I would go for the riskier play and try to put a team on the floor at HP Pavilion, as the San Jose "Entrepreneurs" or the like would be his baby from the start just like his Fortune 500 computer software company.

Certainly turning the present-day Warriors into an NBA champion would be almost as stunning as a member of the SSU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon acing his Music 101 midterm, but it wouldn’t be nearly as impressive as relocating an NBA team, developing a solid fanbase, and winning an NBA title thereafter.

And there would be no better American city to attempt to accomplish that in than San Jose.

A 17,562-seat arena is already in place (and a nice one at that in the Pavilion), to go along with an estimated city population of more than 1,000,000 people as of 2009 and many pocket-heavy high-tech firms in the city or nearby who would be more than happy to entertain their clients and employees in suites located in San Jose, whereas others are an hour’s drive away in Oakland or San Francisco.

The Sharks have averaged just five seats short of a sellout for all of their 31 home games this year, which is a good sign for how successful an NBA team could be in the South Bay, as a large majority of those fans aren’t residents of Petaluma. There would be more than a few Warriors fans who would switch allegiances to the team if their product is better, let alone those who would show up for a game when a visiting superstar comes to town.

Obviously, there are big hurdles to cross in terms of bringing the Bay Area a second NBA team.

Ellison would have to deal with Stern and 30 NBA owners, since one of them would have to be willing to perhaps send his city’s only NBA team to a far-away destination. 

That in itself is certainly enough to argue that the more realistic bet is that the Maloof Brothers (whose family owns the Kings) will eventually decide to split their team’s home games between San Jose and Sacramento.  

But hopefully San Jose’s population, sturdy economy, and nice arena will someday bring the Bay Area an extra 41 NBA games, as the South Bay’s strong support of the Sharks should mean that it will also support a pro basketball franchise.