It’s all over for Sparks Watch, as the WNBA holds a press conference announcing that the Los Angeles Sparks shall be staying in Los Angeles. We look at the winners and losers.
Sparks Watch has now come to an end, and we resume our irregularly scheduled programming here at Swish Appeal. So now that we know that the Sparks are saved, let’s see who walked away from the table with all the chips and who might need a ride home.
1. The WNBA
The WNBA managed to make it through the month and come out smelling like roses, for the most part. They will keep all of their franchises in their locations for an unprecedented fifth consecutive season. They manage to keep a large media market and keep a franchise that won two WNBA championships.
They also know that Joe Lacob and the rest of the Golden State Warriors organization will be a good landing place for a future WNBA team. The league get to keep its “hole card” in the event that one of the existing franchises hits the financial hard rocks and is forced to re-locate. In addition, they have shown that there is a demand for WNBA franchises.
On top of that, they know that their internal discipline is rock solid. Virtually nothing leaked out from the WNBA about the negotiations between the league and the new Sparks ownership. The WNBA now knows that they can keep their secrets – it might not be good for the press or the fans, but they solidify the code of omerta when it comes to revealing information.
2. Laurel Richie
This was Laurel Richie’s first major test as WNBA president, and she comes out with an A grade in the end. What kept the grade from being an A+ was her claim to be blindsided by Madison walking away from Sparks ownership. Yet, she managed to get the deal done in spite of pressure from the fans and the press. Unlike the franchises that folded on Donna Orender’s watch, the rescue of the Sparks happened on her watch and – fairly or not – she can stand up and bask in the glory.
3. The new owners
The new owners not only get a WNBA franchise, they get a franchise that has been around since Day One – not just Day One, but Game One, with a storied history involving Lisa Leslie (one of the greatest players ever), two WNBA championships, marquee level players in Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, and fans that love their team. They should have every reason to be pleased with their purchase.
4. Sparks fans
The Sparks fans had to go through a tough month, but keep their team in the end. The new owners – an investment group headed by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter, the principal owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with other Dodgers co-owners – are well-capitalized, and it is unlikely that they’ll just dump the team and run for the hills if the Sparks cost more than they earn. Under new ownership, the Sparks are likely to be a well-promoted team. Sparks fans can believe their team will stick around, and that if there’s danger again, that the WNBA will pull out all the stops to keep the Sparks going.
1. The Lacobs
The Lacobs are losers in this – but if you think about it, not really. Yes, they didn’t get their WNBA franchise yet (and having the players from the Sparks would have been a great deal). But if they’re honest with themselves, having the Sparks stay in LA is better for the league. They will undoubtedly get the first franchise that is forced to move from its location (Tulsa and Atlanta might feel a cold chill) and they’ve proven that they love the league.
Furthermore, this might not have been the best time for the Lacbos to have a WNBA franchise. They’d love to move that WNBA franchise into their brand spanking new arena, but that arena remains unbuilt in a political struggle. Maybe by the time a team is ready to move to San Francisco (or until the expansion rules are changes to make an expansion squad competitive), that arena will be built.
Have patience, Joe – I’m sure that it will pay off in a team being relocated to San Francisco, or with league expansion.
2. Bay Area fans
Bay Area fans are…well, slight losers. They do have Stanford to console them, though. The Golden Bears, too. The painful part is waiting for a WNBA team to be placed in a part of the United States that would be very receptive to having one.
3. WNBA bashers in the press
Undoubtedly, they had the “Sparks Fold” article all written up, and had a finger poised over the “Enter” key to go to press. Instead, the Sparks are not only saved from the scrap heap but get basketball legend and millionaire Magic Johnson and the even deeper-pocketed Dodgers ownership group ready to sign the checks. It’s got to be hard to predict the league’s failure when you’ve been wrong for 17 years.