To the cynics who contend that the NBA, Stern and Board of Governors pursue profit as their sole objective, to the exclusion of more selfless motives, and will base their pending resolution of the SEA-SAC saga accordingly, I have a bit of good news.
Nothing turns a profit quite like an established brand to draw consumers and their spending dollars.
Think Coke. Think Apple. Think NBA.
The NBA is a brand to the the tune of $4 billion dollars in annual revenue. Its a brand built upon the backs of mega stars, a fast-paced and entertaining game played by world class athletes, competitive suspense and drama few sports can match.
The NBA is cautious to protect and enhance its brand through community out reach programs, global marketing, interactive media and rules related to player conduct, on and off the court.
The NBA brand has taken its share of hits too, including a drug scandal, Tim Donaghy, franchise relocations, boring games preceding rule changes to favor the offensive player, work stoppages and ugly brawls spilling into the stands.
In these instances, the NBA led by the no nonsense and mostly prudent guidance of Stern, has been responsive to clean up the mess in a myriad of shapes and forms, to restore its standing in the eyes of the fan and the consumer, to protect its brand.
Stern has taken problems over the years, and turned them into opportunity, to improve the game, to grow the sport, and to enhance the bottom line. Smart business seeks to offer a quality product through quality of action that earns loyalty and trust.
The dollars follow.
Deciding where the Kings play for the next 35 years represents one more opportunity to act prudently.
With his pending retirement, it may be Stern’s last significant decision as commissioner.
And one of his most important.
He doesn’t want to screw this up.
Stern may have you believe its not his choice to make. He may contend he intends to offer supporting role to the NBA owners, establishing guidelines and clear outlay of the facts. Or he may reveal the truth, instead, that his influence runs deeper and more steadfast, depending on the press conference and his mood at the time.
This much we do know, and ultimately, all we need to know.
The NBA as an established brand weighs upon all thought processes and high level decision making. Doing whats in the best interest of the league, perceived accurately or not, takes precedence. Stern seeks to do whats right for the collective whole, to protect and grow what he has helped to build over four decades in charge.
And so we turn to April 19th.
The potential damage to the NBA to exit a viable market, with a viable new ownership group, with a viable new arena plan would result in permanent black eye to the league for seasons and generations to come, reminded upon by a bitter collective of former fans, in-the-know media scribes, and a former NBA star turned mayor who exceeded all expectation.
Public subsidy forsaken.
A leader among leaders denied.
A city heartbroken.
A team stolen without merit.
These are the ugly burdens the NBA, its brand and Stern’s successor, Adam Silver, will have to bear should they chose to betray a community done everything asked of it.
The potential reward in the form of greater TV dollars up north, a return to a larger market with more Fortune 500 companies, a make good of sorts for a once shunned city with their own gripes and grievances, does not outweigh the potential greater reward by keeping the team where it belongs, by rewarding loyalty, leadership and an actionable strategy.
Relocation does not justify the risk to the brand of the NBA by betraying a market and fan base, leaving resentment and negativity in its wake, to be spread anytime another NBA city finds itself in similar predicament.
This is one black eye that would never heal.
There is no justification to inflict such a wound.
Prudence includes harmonious and peaceful response.
Besides, Stern’s right hook isn’t what it used to be.
There are obstacles to achieving anything grand. Putting up a new arena in downtown Sacramento by the start of the 2016-17 will be no small task.
But a prudent man with a history of prudence, with a brand to protect and a legacy to leave behind, knows better.
He knows not to bet against KJ.
He knows not to turn his back on Sacramento.
He knows the right thing to do.
All that remains is to see it done.