Take a deep breath, Sparks fans. Your team isn’t relocating to Bay Area after all.
The WNBA has approved the purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks by an investment group led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark R. Walter. The franchise, which is one of the original eight in the WNBA, will remain in L.A. and play at the STAPLES Center.
“We bought not just a franchise, we bought the best franchise,” Johnson said during a Wednesday news conference.
“I was at the first Sparks game. I’ve been a fan of the Sparks and WNBA for a long time.”
The announcement is a relief for fans who were outraged by reports that their team might be moving to Bay Area after news spread that the WNBA was in talks with the Golden State Warriors. Fans created online petitions and begged the league to keep the team in Los Angeles. And, it looks like they listened.
WNBA President Laurel J. Richie thanked fans during the news conference for sticking by the team and having patience.
“I couldn’t be happier to have Magic and his crew, and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming them,” she said.
Before Wednesday’s announcement, it had been a rough couple of months for the Los Angeles Sparks, starting with a loss to Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals in September.Star center Candace Parker was even named league MVP for her performance in the regular season.
But, for the second year in a row, the team failed to advance due to a last-minute shot by Mercury rookie Brittney Griner.
The fans were devastated. The team was frustrated. And unfortunately, the disappointment didn’t stop there.
Owner Paul Madison announced in January that she could no longer operate the team, leaving the franchise in limbo. Madison reportedly told The Associated Press that her family lost $12 million operating the franchise since 2007 and $1.4 million last season.
So, an obvious question for Johnson Wednesday was why he wanted the team and how he plans to turn a profit on it.
Johnson said he plans to take a similar approach as the one taken to resurrect the Dodgers. ESPN reports Johnson and Walter teamed up to buy the Dodgers in 2012 and have had success with turning that franchise around.
Will they be able to do the same thing with the Sparks? We’ll see.
Johnson said he’s a big fan of women’s basketball and wants to work closer with Richie to better understand the league and improve the overall fan experience.
“This is a great day for the city of Los Angeles and the Sparks,” Johnson said. “The leaders of this great city came together quickly to keep this franchise right where it belongs—in the city of Angels. Thanks to my sister, Evelyn, playing college basketball, I have a great appreciation of the talented players that represent the WNBA. Our group will now work together to bring our loyal fans another WNBA championship. ”
Some background: The Sparks won the championship in 2001 and 2002. The franchise is also the last team to have earned titles in consecutive seasons.