In just his fifth day as NBA Commissioner, a position with which comes immense power, Adam Silver chose to take in a game at Sleep Train Arena, a building expected to be vacant a few years from now.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat were taking on the Los Angeles Clippers just a few hundred miles south. The Portland Trail Blazers were taking on the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden, in the neighborhood of the league office and the commissioner’s residence.
But there Silver was, sitting next to Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, watching the Kings play the Toronto Raptors. Aside from the last four minutes, the contest wasn’t close or particularly exciting, but that wasn’t why Silver was in attendance.
The future of the league is bright and virtually limitless. In Silver’s reign, fans will bear witness to rule changes that will shape the game along with globalization that will shepherd in new players of different nationalities to the league and perhaps even pave the way for NBA teams in Europe.
All of those things, though, are intangible and, to some extent, unplanned—dreams and visions distorted by varying degrees of uncertainty.
In the present, Silver’s first significant project as commissioner lies in Sacramento, with a team under new ownership, whose purchase raised the value of 29 other franchises and ignited the construction of the NBA’s latest venue.
So, it makes sense that Silver would visit with Ranadivé in Sacramento for an in-person update on the overhaul of the franchise.
“We spent some time before the game going over the plans for the arena. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. (Ranadivé) coined the phrase ‘NBA 3.0’ and this is arena 3.0,” Silver said of the Kings’ future home, of which renderings were released last week. “It’s sort of an inside-outside architectural vision of Vivek and his partners. Everything appears to be on track and we remain excited and thrilled with the opportunity here.”
Although Sacramento has seemingly won the war to keep hold of its NBA team, there has been local opposition in the form of political public-interest groups which have voiced concern over how the city will fund the arena. Some have called for a public vote on the decision.
The largest anti-arena group in Sacramento, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) came the closest to forcing the decision onto a ballot, but their petition was rejected by Sacramento’s city clerk two weeks ago. STOP responded by filing a lawsuit against the city in hopes of getting the measure onto a June ballot. The group has come under fire over the last year because of various petition violations and the revelation that they were initially funded by Ranadivé’s Seattle competitor for the purchase of the Kings, Chris Hansen.
Wednesday, standing beside one another during a halftime media scrum, Ranadivé and Silver said they were confident everything was going to plan.
“We’re going to be on schedule with this arena,” Ranadivé said. “I know they’re called STOP, but this is a go. It’s going to be a go all the way.”
Silver added: “No worries from the league office standpoint. … I’m so confident because I’ve known Kevin Johnson for over 20 years. I knew him as a player, I knew him as a broadcaster and obviously I know him as a mayor now. I’ve sat in literally dozens of meetings with lawyers, political advisors and political leaders—both from Sacramento and from California—and talking to Vivek and his partners. I’m absolutely confident that it’s going to get done.”
Along with a new arena, the NBA’s partnership with Ranadivé is expected to bolster its globalization efforts, particularly in Ranadivé’s homeland of India. At one point, Ranadivé hijacked the press conference to ask a question of Silver: where would his first overseas visit be?
Silver disclosed that he had been in discussion with Ranadivé about organizing a trip, which will include Kings personnel and NBA legends Chris Mullin and Shaquille O’Neal, to the Kings owner’s hometown, Mumbai. The commissioner also said there are currently over one million Indian boys and girls “bouncing basketballs,” according to a league partner.
Ranadivé and Silver’s words were full of optimism, suggesting a budding partnership, a sentiment the commissioner closed on when asked about his role in last year’s NBA Board of Governors meetings that decided the fate of the franchise.
“I think those meetings have always been confidential,” he said. “I will just say that I’ve been a supporter and a strong supporter of keeping the Kings in Sacramento.”