The Bucks Are Gathering Investors — Will They Be Enough To Keep The Team In Milwaukee?
Seattle losing the Sonics to Oklahoma City -- OKLAHOMA. CITY. -- was one of the shittiest things in American pro basketball history. That's not meant as a slight to the great state of Oklahoma, nor the great city of Oklahoma City, but Seattle was (is?) a great basketball town and they didn't deserve to lose their team.
No city "deserves" to lose a team, but in this business-first world we live in, it happens all the time. And unfortunately, it appears as though the only way to right the wrong that is a basketball-less Seattle is to take a team from another city. That team is the Bucks, and that city is Milwaukee.
The last thing the NBA needs right now is expansion. Thirty teams is plenty; you could make the argument that it's too many, in fact. That means if cities like Seattle and Louisville are going to get their own teams anytime soon, it must come at the expense of another city's franchise. The Thunder aren't heading back to Seattle anytime soon, and it looks like the Kings are staying in Sacramento for now.
On the other hand, a theory floated by "Clairvoyant Bill" in Grantland's NBA Previews series gives credence to the idea that the league is passively working towards steering the Bucks to Seattle -- for both karmic purposes and because it will net the other 29 owners a significant chunk of change.
Here's the gist: If the Bucks don't have a new arena ready to go by 2017, the NBA can buy back the team from its new owners for just $575 million. That's a huge discount from what we now know NBA teams to be worth, thanks to Steve Ballmer. Then, by selling the team to a Seattle group for a supposed $1.6 billion, the owners would split a $1 billion pot (more than $35 million an owner). As Simmons says, it's in the league's vested interest for Milwaukee not to have an arena.
So, will the arena get built? The owners, led by Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, say they need another $200 million in funding from local taxpayers to make that happen. Will the people of Milwaukee choose to subsidize an enterprise that might "revitalize" the area, but ultimately benefit a bunch of millionaires and billionaires?
On the other hand, just this morning the Bucks announced several new members of the ownership team, including hedge fund manager Jamie Dinan, worth $2.2 billion. These guys aren't going to just let a potential windfall like an NBA franchise (especially with this new TV deal) fall between their collective fingers. Bucksketball notes that it also includes a lot of influential local names, who might have the political pull necessary to get this done:
They’re connected locally. And they’re connected much further than just the campaign contributions. Regular people, like you and me, we can give money, we can vote, but after the election we’re completely inconsequential until the next election. Gale Klappa is in charge of all gas and electricity in southeast Wisconsin. Hammes is the top healthcare developer in the state and he’s been involved in the renovation of Lambeau Field and the development of the Kohl Center. Their resources are essential toward legitimizing the governing capacity of any regime that’s in charge after the election. They still have a voice after the election. If they’re talking about an arena, then our leaders are talking about arena.
Of course, the league's other 29 ownership groups can't prevent things like an arena being built in Milwaukee, especially if private investors couch up enough to make it happen. But everything about Seattle is more appealing than Milwaukee -- a bigger television market, a pot of money to split, a wrong righted (sort of). We'll see if the league takes any active, or passive, steps to influence how things play out in Wisconsin.
In the meantime, Bucks fans, it might be better to think of your team as gone. If it works out differently, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Don't be blindsided like the people of Washington State were.
Photo via Getty
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