King of Kings: Is Vivek Ranadive the best owner in Sacramento Kings history?

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 7: Owner Vivek Ranadive of the Sacramento Kings looks on during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on April 7, 2019 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 7: Owner Vivek Ranadive of the Sacramento Kings looks on during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on April 7, 2019 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the Sacramento Kings primed for a playoff run and a bright future, is it safe to say Vivek Ranadive is the best owner in Kings history?

Has Vivek been a good steward for the Sacramento Kings? That’s seems like a pretty easy question to answer, but let’s break it down into layers  — starting with his responsibilities as owner.

From personnel decisions to a willingness to spend money to build a winner, he also needs to make people in the franchise accountable for success and failure? As an owner, it’s important to  not interfere in a way that hampers the teams progress.

More importantly, does he let the people do their job? As the head of an organization, the owner sets the tone for everyone.

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A quick history lesson

1985 — the year Sacramento’s sports scene changed forever.

A group of investors whose long-term goal was to bring a Major League Baseball team to town, and in the end, they did bring the city its first professional franchise.

Gregg Lukenbill and Joe Benvenuti brought the Kings from Kansas City to Sacramento by writing a check for a cool $10.5 million, with hopes of proving Sacramento could support a professional sports franchise. But if they had any idea how much the team’s value would increase, Lukenbill might have held onto the team longer.

We won’t talk about the Maloof’s time owning the Sacramento Kings for obvious reasons.

History though, was made in 2013 when a man born in Mumbai, India, bought the Kings for a record $534 million. That purchase price has since been surpassed by the Los Angeles Clippers ($2+ billion) making Sacramento look like a bargain.

At the time, however, Sacramento was in a bidding war with Seattle, and $534 million was considered a massive overpay. In the six years since, the team value has increased to over $1.5 billion dollars according to Forbes.

Vivek takes the reigns

Before stepping up to save the Kings from moving to Seattle, Vivek was the co-owner of the Golden State Warriors in 2010. Ranadive, it seems, decided he wanted to be the number one guy and run his own show, but it wasn’t always a forgone conclusion he would make the deal.

Ron Burkle was ex-Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s first choice to be the “whale” investor with pockets deep enough to satisfy the NBA, but a problem arose when Ron could not divest all conflicting business interest in a timely manner to keep the Kings in the capital city.

Vivek swooped in as a surprise “whale,” along with Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness, with Mastrov getting credit for bringing Shaquille O’Neal in to invest in the Kings.

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Mastrov and Shaq have worked together numerous times since they became friends in Miami, Florida, while Shaq played for the Heat.

Vivek, Mastrov and Burkle were willing to commit over a billion dollars in the arena and surrounding area, with Sacramento needing to convince Commissioner David Stern and the NBA with credible names. And these investors passed the credibility test with a gold star. Making sure the city could adhere to a tight schedule of conditions if the NBA stood in the way of Sacramento keeping the Kings in town.

How deep are Vivek’s pockets?

It is easy to not compare the early owners when NBA teams were still moderately priced compared to other sports teams.

The Maloof’s were wealthy as a family owned the team, but in Vivek’s case, he is the sole owner of the Kings.

The Maloof family company is worth an estimated $1 billion today, according to Celebrity Net Worth, while Ranadive is worth $700 million according to Net Worth Post.

Vivek has kept a low profile about his wealth since his software company Tibco sold for $4.3 billion in 2014.

How much money he has spent, along with how much he earns from all his investments is kept out of the publics view, but Ranadive is as smart as they come when it comes to diversifying his holdings.

Celebrity Net Worth listed his wealth as still to be determined as they could not find public records of all his investments. With his 65% ownership in the Kings close to his estimated wealth, and as sole owner, Vivek is likely the wealthiest in Sacramento franchise history.

He did take some risks at first

The move to hire current general manager Vlade Divac was criticized because of his lack of experience. After a rough start, however, Vlade made enough progress to warrant a four-year extension.

Divac’s quick learning curve has paid off with better draft picks as well free agents joining the club, from the outside looking in, it seems Ranadive will give his opinion, but leaves the final decision to Divac. This season, the slogan “In Vlade We Trust” will be put to the test like never before.

Questions still surround the hiring of Luke Walton

If Luke Walton fails to deliver a competitive team that makes a serious run at the playoffs, the decision to fire Dave Joerger will put Divac on thin ice as GM. And that’s if Luke Walton ever gets to coach the team.

The NBA and the Sacramento Kings organization are investigating allegations of sexual assault against Walton. The alleged assault was said to have happened five years ago while Walton was still an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.

The league is sure to take time and gather as much information as needed, but little has been said by either side, and it leaves fans wondering whether Walton will coach a game for the Sacramento Kings at all.

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With Walton staying away from the media, there’s been no comment from him on the teams new players, progress of the young core or De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III joining Harrison at the team USA practice facility. It’s awkward situation for an exciting team looking forward to the upcoming season.

Sacramento, however, will be alright if Walton needs to step away for any reason. The Sacramento Kings have Igor Kokoskov who, last year, was given a chance to coach the Phoenix Suns and  has 19 seasons of coaching under his belt. He’s ready and capable of stepping up as a head coach.

The team also has Bob Beyer and his 35 years of experience with six NBA teams and Jesse Mermuys adding 18 years in the NBA with four different teams. This, has Sacramento on solid ground with a plethora of other assistant coaches in the mix as well.

Ranadive opened his wallet to assemble a great group of mentors, and there’s no excuse for the team not to break the playoff curse that has kept the Kings out of the postseason for far too long.

Breaking down Vivek’s tenure thus far

Let’s get to the facts: early on, Vivek was a disaster Sacramento Kings. Most everyone has heard the story of Vivek wanting to run a 4 on 5 defense and cherry pick, he pushed drafting Nik Stauskas over selecting Zach LaVine, Elfrid Payne, Rodney Hood.

And sure, not all draft picks workout, but Vivek should listen more and talk less. In most draft circles, Stauskas was not a high-first-round NBA player. He hired Mike Malone before he hired a  GM, which led Pete D’Alessandro to fire coach Malone after a rocky start in Malone’s second season amid Vivek’s unrealistic goals.

Ranadive owns selling the idea Ty Corbin would help the Kings win more games, and considering hiring Chris Mullins as coach, hoping to end up like the Warriors did with Steve Kerr.

Sticking with DeMarcus Cousins as the cornerstone of the franchise after many documented “incidents” of Boogie crossing the line time and time again — with the owner standing up for DMC holding out hope Cousin’s could mature and lead a team. This is not how a successful NBA front office operates.

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Regardless, Vivek Ranadive will go down in history as the man who saved the Kings from leaving Sacramento for Seattle when Chris Hansen and Steve Balmer thought that working a back alley deal with the shady Maloof family would net them a team.

Never knowing that a miracle on “J” street with a new arena and owner would be one of the greatest sports comeback stories ever.

Kings fans were on cloud nine, Ranadive and Mastrov beat the mega-billionaires of Balmer and Hansen — starting off a new era with the promise of bringing back the glory days when players like Divac, Peja, and Jackson wore purple and white jerseys.

What Vivek gave us instead were mistakes from a rookie owner that set the team back a few years. It was the same buffoonery that permeated the franchise for 25 years since moving to Sactown.

Finally, when Ranadive hired the glory team players to manage the organization, only then we started to see the culture start to improve along with expectations of character and talent.

Then, we have our best record in over a decade with an over achieving squad and we fired the coach who made it happen.

Dave Joerger being at the helm for three straight season gave the team stability and credibility.  Add De’ Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley’s growth leaping off the charts, and the fans were optimistic that the organization has really turned it around.

With the core foundation in place, there was a bright season ahead, and a relaxed offseason with no major moves or drama—just acquire free agents to upgrade the squad, simple.

Then, it all disappeared, with the unexpected news that Dave Joerger had been given his walking papers, while Divac receives a new contract.

He’s not officially the best owner yet

Vivek gives his input but lets Vlade make the decisions, and he’ll hold people accountable when they fail at their position or affect the growth of the team.

In my view, Ranadive has grown. He acts when the CEO needs to take care of business, and steps back to allow the people he trusts and hired do their work.

All the pieces are in place for the Sacramento Kings to take the next step, and bring the Kings back to the glory days just like he promised in 2013 as the new owner. I see Vivek holding onto the reins of the team for the foreseeable future. This could be the beginning of Ranadive’s legacy.

With the foundation of great young players with a nice mix of veterans, salary cap flexibility and plenty of draft picks for the future, things are looking good. Since arriving in Sacramento, have the Kings ever had a stronger collection of quality people? From Vivek Ranadive to the last player on the bench and everyone in between — Vivek is well on his way to being a good owner by building a franchise the right way; no shortcuts, gathering smart people and good information.

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When he brings a title to town by sticking with his game plans, then the title of “best owner in Sacramento Kings history” becomes Vivek Ranadive’s.