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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is reportedly the frontrunner for owning an NBA expansion franchise in Las Vegas.
During a discussion about his On the ball with Ric Bucher Podcast (h/t Hoops Hype) told FS1 NBA insider Ric Bucher that LeBron is in “pole position” to serve as NBA owner in Las Vegas.
Bucher added that he was told that expansion teams for Las Vegas and Seattle were in the works and as soon as the NBA’s next television deals could be announced. The NBA’s current TV deals with ESPN and Turner Sports run through the 2024-25 season.
If the NBA and James have a mutual interest in him owning an expansion franchise in Vegas, the TV deal schedule could be a clue as to when he plans to retire.
LeBron is currently 37 years old, which means he will be 40 by the end of the 2024-25 season.
At that point, James could retire and cap off an illustrious 22-year NBA career that has established him as one of the all-time greats, although that’s not necessarily a guarantee.
LeBron could both own and play for a Las Vegas franchise, but with the turnaround of at least two years between announcing a franchise and first playing, that may not be viable.
However, James has been vocal about his desire to eventually play in the NBA with his son Bronny, which could compel him to extend his career.
Bronny is part of the 2023 draft class, which means he could potentially be playing in the NBA as early as the 2024-25 season. Perhaps if the Lakers manage to land him and set him up with his father, it would give LeBron even more incentive to retire after the 2024-25 season as he would have accomplished his goal.
The major North American sports leagues have long vowed to stay away from Vegas, but as sports betting has become more popular and legalized across much of the United States, the taboo has essentially disappeared.
The NHL expanded to Las Vegas with the Vegas Golden Knights, and the NFL allowed the Raiders to move from Oakland to Las Vegas.
It seems like the NBA is next in line to explore this market, which makes sense considering the league hosted an All-Star weekend in Vegas in 2007, well before the idea of an expansion team came up.
James would join NBA legend Michael Jordan as the only black primary owner in the NBA, and he would bring the Las Vegas franchise the kind of star power and cachet it needs to take off.
LeBron has earned billionaire status and has been open about his desire to own an NBA franchise. In fact, James said in June that he specifically wants to own a team in Vegas.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver only deflected talk of imminent expansion as recently as June, but he added that the league will eventually “expand without exception.”