LeBron Takes Divisive Stance on Sacramento Kings Sale with TweetJanuary 22, 2013
Anytime a work stoppage enters the realm of professional sports, fans cringe at the woeful cries of multimillionaire athletes pleading injustices.
According to Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, it's a feeling that those very athletes hold toward the billionaire owners during lockouts.
Reports first surfaced on Sunday night that the Sacramento Kings' on-again, off-again sale to an investment group led by Christopher Hansen had cleared one if its biggest hurdles. The Maloof family (majority owners of the Kings) submitted an "executed purchase and sale agreement" between them and Hansen's group to the league office (via SI.com's Ben Golliver).
Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the agreement included a valuation of the franchise of $525 million.
That number proved to be a figure that opened some old wounds for James, who clearly remembered the lengthy negotiations that eventually resulted in a new collective bargaining agreement, but left the 2011-12 year with a truncated 66-game regular season:
So the Kings getting sold for 525M!! And the owners ain't making no money huh? What the hell we have a [lockout] for. Get the hell out of here— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 21, 2013
It wasn't exactly the public relations gaffe that his ill-advised 'Decision' had been, but it was an uncharacteristically sharp criticism for the typically family-friendly James.
A savvy businessman in his own right, he offered some tongue-in-cheek praise in the Maloofs' ability to turn around better than a 300 percent return on their investment to acquire the team in 1998-99:
One thing is I can't hate on their hustle though. Crazy— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 21, 2013
Perhaps this was bigger than an economic issue. Perhaps it was James' way of providing a platform of support for Sacramento mayor (and former NBA star) Kevin Johnson in his pursuit to keep the team based in Northern California:
I do know Mayor Johnson and the city/fans of Sacramento will do whatever it takes to keep the team put. We'll see what happens #NBAFiles— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 21, 2013
Then again, it's not as if he's unfamiliar with the investment world responsible for Hansen's success. He's impressed the second richest man in the country (personal friend and Berkshire Hathaway Chairman, Warren Buffett) with his knowledge of the finance world (via Elaine Walker of The Miami Herald).
But this may have been one decision that Buffett advised James to act differently on. While his words will undoubtedly draw support from James' peers around the league, the best player on the planet's best business strategy may have involved avoiding any off-court controversies.
While the responses were largely supportive of his stance, his feed wasn't free of the typical expletive-laden rants of his anonymous opposition.
Whether or not his comments affect his bottom line remains to be seen. Commissioner David Stern may deem the criticisms worthy of at least the attention of the league office.
But a potential slap on the wrist isn't the real focus of his comments.
When the game's biggest star questions the negotiating ploys of the owners barely one year removed from the last round of debates, one can only wonder about a hardened stance from the players when the players or owners can opt out of the current CBA in 2017.