General Counsels Forum: Notes from the NBA

Joel Litvin, President, League and Basketball Operations of the NBA, spoke about some of the important NBA issues during the General Counsels Forum at Sports Lawyers Conference in San Francisco:

  • The proposed move of the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City is not a happy story for the NBA.  Although Oklahoma City provided great support to the New Orleans Hornets when the team was displaced following Hurricane Katrina, the NBA is not pleased to see the Sonics leave Seattle after 40 years.  The trigger for the move is Seattle’s lack of support for a new arena.  After supporting new arenas for the Seahawks and Mariners, the people and politicians simply had enough.  Considering the lack of a new arena, the NBA and Sonics believe they have no choice but to move the team.
  • The move to Oklahoma City, of course, is conditional on the outcome of litigation facing the Sonics.  The first case involves the Sonics’ lease of Key Arena, and the issue of whether the Sonics are required to actually play the next 2 seasons in Key Arena, or whether the team can simply pay off its lease.  There is also litigation brought by the former owners of the Sonics founded upon allegations that the present owners fraudulently misrepresented their intentions regarding moving the team at the time of purchase.
  • The “one and done” scenario has nothing to do with social engineering (i.e. the notion that players are better off attending college) or helping the NCAA make money.  It is about NBA teams spending first round picks on players the teams know little about and wanting to minimize that risk.  Mr. Litvin noted that a high school player can enter the NBA Development League without attending college – although no player has gone that route.  To read Connecticut Sports Law’s take on the “one and done” scenario, click here).

 

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