LeBron James has frequently been attached to the NBA’s long-rumored expansion team in Las Vegas, but he isn’t the only player interested in potentially owning a team there. In October, Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal expressed interest in running that team. … and doing so on his own terms. “I would like to have my own group,” O’Neal told The Messenger at a Las Vegas-based charity event. “I know Vegas hasn’t been awarded an NBA team yet, but if they ever get to a point where they are awarded a team, I would like to be a part of that. I don’t want to partner up with nobody. I want it all for myself.”

On Sunday, however, O’Neal sang a slightly different tune. “If there’s ever an NBA team that’s going to come here, I would definitely like to be involved,” O’Neal said, according to The Messenger’s Arash Markazai.  “With LeBron, without LeBron, I just want to be involved.” 

In 2022, James openly campaigned for a potential Las Vegas team after playing a preseason game there. James previously partnered with the Fenway Sports Group to purchase a 2% stake in British soccer team Liverpool in 2011, so one rumor that has persisted since is that James would work with that group to purchase an NBA expansion team.

James and O’Neal were once teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers, though that partnership lasted for only the 2009-10 season. After O’Neal retired, he became a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings from 2013 to 2022. He currently works as a broadcaster on TNT’s Inside the NBA, while James is still an active player for the Los Angeles Lakers, and presumably would need to retire before taking over another team.

As a minority owner with the Kings, O’Neal is not known to have wielded any front office power. James would presumably want to have some degree of control over the basketball operations of any team he purchases, if not outright governorship. After Michael Jordan’s sale of the Charlotte Hornets, no player currently holds majority ownership or governorship of an NBA franchise. Several players, such as Dwyane Wade with the Utah Jazz and Grant Hill with the Atlanta Hawks, currently own minority stakes with teams, and there is no reason multiple former players couldn’t own minority stakes in a single team.

For now, the NBA is focused on completing a new national media rights deal. Expansion will presumably more firmly enter the conversation once that deal is completed, with Las Vegas and Seattle being the two likeliest markets to receive teams. O’Neal and James are both interested in joining ownership groups, and they may even do so together, but, for now, it is far too early to predict who will actually control any new teams when the dust settles.



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