Why is Anaheim ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ for the Kings?

The Sacramento Kings seem to be in the headlines on a daily basis and it has nothing to do with the team’s performance this season.  It’s all about location, location, location.  Or in the Kings’ case: relocation.  The Kings are on their way to having yet another losing season and not even being close to the target of making the playoffs.  The situation is worse off the court with dismal ticket sales and low sponsorship deals primarily due to the current downturn of the economy.

With the compounding pressure of potential failure, the Maloof brothers, the owners of the Kings, have come to terms with the idea of relocating the team.  The Maloof brothers have pinpointed the city of Anaheim and the Honda Center to call their new home.  This idea has already come under scrutiny by fans, NBA analysts, the Clippers, the Lakers, and the “Zen Master” himself, Phil Jackson.  So why do the Maloofs believe Anaheim is the right decision?  Why is Jerry Buss opposed to the idea?  Will it affect the Lakers?

Three professional teams in one market is unheard of, especially in the competitive nature of sports.  If the Maloof brothers choose to relocate the Kings to Anaheim, it would be the first time in the NBA’s history to have three teams in one market.  The city of Anaheim and its mayor, Tom Tait, believes his city which hosts “The Happiest Place on Earth”, Disneyland, is the solution to the Kings’ problems.

The mayor seems to have the support of one notable Laker, Kobe Bryant.  Bryant, who resides in Newport Beach, has remarked that Orange County would be a great place for an NBA team.  Another major player in this potential deal is the Anaheim Ducks’ owner, Henry Samueli.  Samueli has made it publically known that he wants a NBA team calling the Honda Center its home court.  The $75 million dollar bond (for relocation fees and renovation costs) that was recently passed by the city of Anaheim will reportedly be primarily funded by Samueli.

Anaheim and Orange County houses over three million residents.  The Maloof brothers are counting on those three million residents to become fans, and more importantly buys seats, to see the new and improved Royals (formerly Kings).  The Maloofs and Mayor Tait also believe they can and will attract potential fans and buyers from the San Diego area.  The Maloofs are also aware of the financial possibilities of Orange County.  They feel that Southern California has more than enough residents to share a three team market with the Clippers and the Lakers.  Jerry Buss tends to disagree.  Why?  Money.

Last month Jerry Buss and his Lakers signed a mega deal with Time Warner Cable for distribution rights.  The deal is for twenty years and is reportedly worth approximately $3 billion.  What does this deal have to do with the Kings potential move to Anaheim?  Due to a clause in the contract between the Lakers and Time Warner, if another team moves into their market then the Lakers would loose ten percent of the contract’s value.  In other words, the Lakers would loose $300 million.  Taking this into account, you can understand why Jerry Buss is trying to reach out to the Board of Governors, which is comprised of NBA owners, to join his band wagon to not approve the Maloof’s decision to go to Anaheim.

There is one key component that the Lakers do not have to worry about: losing their fan base.  It is an absurd notion that, according to Laker haters, Laker fans are not loyal or dedicated to the team.  Name one other NBA team that draws fans to support and come out to games not only at Staples, but at away games at such a high level.  I have been to several Laker games in Phoenix and about half of the fans in attendance were wearing purple and gold.  Therefore, Lakers nation will not falter if another team were to move to the area.

However, the same cannot be said about the Clippers.  With the excitement over Blake Griffin and the slight improvement he has made to the team, ticket sales for the Clips has increased this season.  But that may play out differently if the Clippers don’t continue their progress and their fans look to attend a game with less travel time from home.

There is no doubt that the Clippers have some of the most dedicated fans in the NBA.  They have certainly withstood the low times of the team.  Yet, the overall Clippers’ fan base may stray.  The Clippers have benefited from sharing the Staples Center with the Lakers.  But continued financial success for the Clips may be in jeopardy with the creation of the Anaheim Royals.

Anaheim has impressively courted the Sacramento Kings and the Maloof brothers.  Anaheim’s mayor along with the Ducks’ owner, Samueli, seemed to have taken a page out of Oklahoma City’s book on how to attract a NBA team.  With the right talent and the right plan, this relocation could work out.  It will most likely affect the Lakers and the Clippers, but how much of an affect cannot be foreseen.  As we approach the April 18th deadline for Sacramento’s decision, it looks like Southern Californians will belong to a three team NBA market.

The question for Orange County residents (me) is, what will become of the broadcasting? Maybe not immediately, but eventually, won’t the Kings/Royals/Whatevers push to become the only team broadcasting to OC… forcing us to buy the NBA League Pass just to see Lakers games (like San Diegans who are stuck with the Clippers as their home team)?

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