Ted Leonsis Rumors
Leonsis has in recent years emerged as a vocal proponent of legalized sports gambling, and not just to save football. He said in the interview that he foresees in-arena betting in American sports venues, that he even imagines in-arena WNBA betting, which could help drive attendance and interest in women’s basketball. He said that betting on games inside American venues “will not be an oddity; that will be standing operating procedure.” And he said he could imagine ESPN2 essentially morphing into a gambling trading network, the CNBC of sports gambling. “It’s not like people aren’t gambling,” he said. “It’s kind of like when prohibition of liquor was happening, and people were drinking in speakeasies and the like. And so it’s estimated that there’s hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars that are being spent with bookies. . . . And so states need revenues, we need tax revenues, we need to be able to have a system that is very transparent with the amount of data. I joked the other day with someone from ESPN, I said look, if you’re a day trader or you’re in the financial community, you have CNBC on 24/7. And there are buy-side analysts and there are sell-side analysts and there’s a ticker. You could see one day ESPN2 being like CNBC.
“Gambling is no different than betting on stocks on Wall Street, right? The people who do best are the most informed. They’re following the companies, they’re looking at the balance sheets, they’re looking at the analysts reports. That’s what I envision 10 years from now: that gaming and gambling will be very data driven, all powered through the digital networks; that the amount of data that teams and leagues and players generate will make for very educated, smart people; and there’ll be casual gamblers and there’ll be serious professional ones, and there won’t be a stigma attached to it, just like there’s no stigma on Wall Street.”
But on this night, the visual of LeBron James’ agent sitting next to the Lakers owner was enough to spin the NBA world off its axis. Forget that Rich Paul (LeBron’s agent) sometimes sits courtside in Washington with Zach Leonsis, the son of owner Ted Leonsis, where client John Wall recently got a $170 million extension. Or that Paul occasionally sits with 76ers part owner Michael Rubin in Philadelphia, where he represents star rookie Ben Simmons. Or that a few days later, Paul was in Denver, sitting with Nuggets GM Tim Connolly. Paul sitting with Buss had to mean something. Or nothing. Or everything. “If you know me,” Paul told ESPN. “You know it doesn’t mean anything other than I enjoy their company.”
Leonsis also has grand ambitions for the new team from a basketball standpoint. Some G League affiliates are located further afield from their parent team, but Leonsis said Monumental wanted its team close by, “so we can cross-promote, so the players and the coaches can be going back and forth, and so it looks like it’s an extension of the NBA.”
“I think it is the right time to kind of reimagine the NCAA and its relationship with the NBA,” Leonsis said. “We need to take more control of our platform, if you will, and how we deal with players. . . . I believe that the G League will allow us to have deeper drafts, create more jobs, more opportunity for players, for coaches, for staff,” he said, describing “a re-imagination of how the G league and the NBA work together.”