Lakers News: LeBron James Called Out NBA For Handling Of Robert Sarver

King James took to Twitter to (rightfully) argue for a harsher punishment.

Following a lengthy NBA-commissioned investigation of workplace misconduct, as revealed in a very depressing Baxter Holmes ESPN piece, the NBA announced a relatively mild punishment for Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver. Holmes reported yesterday that Sarver would be fined $10 million and suspended for one year as governor of both teams. Of course, should the Mercury or Suns (both of whom were Finals runner-ups in their respective leagues in 2021) win a title during the interim of Sarver’s suspension, he’ll still get that hardware.

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The Phoenix Suns team owner has been fined a sizable sum, though it’s just a parking ticket in the grand scheme of his vast wealth. Sarver’s yearlong suspension (and his response to it) seem a bit generous. Donald Sterling was forced to sell his team over similarly inappropriate behavior.

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James took to Twitter today to voice his criticism of the arrangement, and we here at All Lakers see no lies:

James is right. Owning an NBA team is a privilege, one that Sarver no longer deserves.

Sarver should be forced to sell the Suns. And really, that’s barely a punishment either: Phoenix was recently valued to be worth $1.8 billion, roughly $1.4 billion more than what Sarver paid to procure the team in 2004. But owning a major league sports team is viewed almost as a status symbol among the super-rich, and of course they love all the visibility and athlete glad-handing that comes along with the gig, so Sarver would surely bemoan such a fate. Too bad. James is absolutely right: someone with Sarver’s demonstrable history of misconduct does not deserve to own a sports team. He should take his money and go home.

Fallout from the leniency of the NBA’s decision is still ongoing. When questioned about what seems like a different set of punitive standards for Sarver than would be assessed to an employee by Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck, league commissioner Adam Silver spoke as if team owners were somehow exempt from the same consequences:

Of course, former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was essentially forced out of the league in 2014 over one incendiary phone call, though he too had a history of poor behavior. What Clippers fans there were certainly didn’t miss him.

Silver tried to differentiate between Sterling’s egregious behavior and Sarver’s during the same presser:

By the same token, forcing Sarver out of the NBA and WNBA really wouldn’t be much of a loss for Suns fans. Beyond the fact that he exhibited 18 years’ worth of racist and misogynistic behavior, Sarver has also been notoriously stingy during his tenure as franchise owner. He tried to convince GM Bryan Colangelo, architect of the Nash/Stoudemire/Marion-era Suns, to take a significant pay cut, which essentially compelled Colangelo to leave. Let’s take a look at his most egregious on-court cheap-outs

Most notoriously, after a standoff with free agent Joe Johnson, Sarver sent the eventual seven-time All-Star wing to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for forward Boris Diaw and the future draft pick that eventually became center Robin Lopez. Sarver also had a hilarious habit of kicking the can on first-round draft picks. In that instance, Diaw wound up being a pretty useful role player in Phoenix and Lopez became a serviceable role player, though Lopez didn’t last too long in Phoenix. Sarver also sent out the No. 7 pick in 2004 (which the Chicago Bulls to select two-time All-Star Luol Deng out of Duke) for the No. 21 pick in 2005 and Jackson Vroman, then he sent out that No. 21 pick in 2005 (which became Nate Robinson, three-time Slam Dunk champ) and Quentin Richardson for Kurt Thomas, the No. 57 pick (which became longtime starting center Marcin Gortat) to the Magic for cash. Sarver next shipped out the No. 21 pick in 2006 (which became four-time All-Star and two-time champ Rajon Rondo), Brian Grant and cash for the No. 24 pick in 2007. Invariably, he next sent out the No. 24 pick in 2007 (Rudy Fernandez) for cash, and, also in 2007, he traded Kurt Thomas (acquired in that 2005 draft-day deal) and two future first-round selections for a second-round pick. 

Thankfully, the Lakers have one of the nicest majority owners in the league. Though Jeanie Buss may not have the basketball acumen her father Dr. Jerry Buss exhibited (she recently claimed that Russell Westbrook was the best player on the Lakers last season because he was healthiest), she is widely regarded as a kind and decent human. That should count for something.

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