Fenway Sports Group’s (FSG) long-term plans for an NBA expansion franchise have been handed a boost. Liverpool owners FSG have been open in their desire to add a franchise in the world’s premier basketball league to their catalogue and have their sights set on a team in Las Vegas.
A team in Vegas does not yet exist but is likely to inherit one when the NBA does give the green light to increasing the number of teams in the league from 30 to 32, dependent on the passing of a vote from current league teams.
The NBA hasn’t expanded since the 2004/2005 season when the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) came into the league. Prior to that, the previous expansion had been in 1995 when the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies (now Memphis Grizzlies) arrived through a play to get a greater foothold in the Canadian market.
FSG’s own vision for owning an NBA franchise has basketball icon, current Los Angeles Lakers star and FSG shareholder LeBron James helming the project as a team owner.
When FSG revealed that they were seeking to bring in fresh investment into Liverpool through a partial sale of their shareholding in a bid to recapitalise the business heading into a potentially costly rebuild, some suggestion was made that it was linked to plans to purchase an NBA franchise.
However, plans to get into the NBA are on the agenda and were given a potential boost over the weekend when it was announced that a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) had been reached between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the body that represents the interests of NBA Players.
While the narrative around the move with FSG and Liverpool was, in some quarters, focused on the desire to free up capital for an NBA team, there is no urgency on that front from the Reds owners, nor was it the basis for them seeking a new strategic partner to join them at Anfield.
James is still an NBA star and has intimated that he wants to continue playing long enough to be able to share the hardwood with his son, Bronny, who is eligible for the NBA Draft class of 2024.
Speaking to Forbes' Sports Money show 12 months ago, Liverpool chairman Tom Werner hinted at a future FSG move into the NBA involving James.
Werner said: "[Owning an NBA team] is certainly something that we would look at. We don't have a secret piece of paper that says, 'let's go acquire an NBA team'.
"LeBron James has made no secret that at some point he would like to be involved in ownership and he is a wonderful partner, so we'll see how that goes."