Former Major League Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez and billionaire Marc Lore have signed an exclusive negotiating agreement regarding the purchase of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
While the names are flashy and exciting, would a potential ownership group led by the New York City-based Rodriguez-Lore be a good thing, or should Wolves fans have concern about their franchise’s future?
Is there reason to be worried about the Minnesota Timberwolves relocating?
The short answer is, yes, but it’s not entirely clear why. (If you’re interested in the sunnier outlook, we’ve covered that as well.)
Relocation has consistently been mentioned as a possibility in the media and has been validated by reports that longtime Wolves owner Glen Taylor has rebuffed larger offers from potential suitors who had interest in moving the team. Taylor has been consistent in his insistence that the team remain in Minnesota.
The Twin Cities are often misrepresented as a “small market”; in reality, it’s actually the No. 15 media market in the country, ahead of 15 other NBA markets including Miami, Cleveland, San Antonio, New Orleans, among many others. Seattle is only two slots ahead of Minneapolis-St. Paul in Nielson’s media market rankings.
While the Wolves have been near the bottom in NBA attendance for some time, it’s hard to argue against franchise futility being the primary driver; the Wolves have been to the playoffs once in 17 seasons since reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2004.
The league would prefer to expand with new franchises in new cities over the possibility of relocating teams. Las Vegas and Seattle are the two markets most frequently mentioned as possibilities, and there are certainly ties between the potential new ownership group and the Pacific Northwest.
Could Alex Rodriguez buying the Minnesota Timberwolves be a bad thing?
Alex Rodriguez started his MLB career with the Seattle Mariners and played there for seven seasons before signing a record-breaking contract with the Texas Rangers in 2001. That record-breaking contract? The largest contract in professional sports history at the time, and worth exactly double Kevin Garnett’s $126 million deal, signed 1997.
Given Seattle’s desperation for an NBA team after the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City back in 2007, it’s defensible to look at a pair of big-city businessmen and Rodriguez’s ties to Seattle and assume that it’s a real possibility that the franchise skips town for Washington state sooner rather than later.
But other than Rodriguez’s seven years as a Mariner, there are no additional obvious ties to Seattle for either Rodriguez or Lore. Both are from New York City, as is Rodriguez’s fiance, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez. Rodriguez played the final 12 years of his career with the New York Yankees, and the majority of Lore’s business dealings have remained on the East Coast.
Add in Glen Taylor’s continued insistence that the team remains in the Twin Cities and the fact that he will apparently remain as the majority owner until 2023 and stay on as a minority owner beyond that point, and it seems a bit less worrisome that the team leaves Minnesota.
Plus, SKOR North and KSTP’s Darren Wolfson spoke with Taylor and added this on Twitter:
It’s unclear how, exactly, something like this could be put in writing, unless Taylor’s continued presence as minority owner might allow him some additional influence.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s fair to wonder what any new ownership group’s intentions are, especially one with a globally recognized power couple in Rodriguez and Lopez and a rising star billionaire in Lore. After all, the Clay Bennett-led, Oklahoma City-based ownership group that purchased the Seattle SuperSonics pledged to try and keep the team in town, but evidence emerged that they had planned to move the team to OKC all along.
But the hurdles to moving the Wolves out of Minneapolis are probably great enough that Wolves fans needn’t spend the next few years wringing their hands over the possibility.