LeBron James on reports of $525M Kings sale to Seattle group: ‘What the hell we have a lockout for?’

The ongoing drama surrounding the potential sale of the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle-based group helmed by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ramped up another notch on Sunday amid reports that, after a week and a half of discussions, the Kings ownership — led by the Maloof family, which has held a controlling interest in the team since 1999 — had reached an agreement to sell a 65 percent stake in the Kings to the Seattle group, which plans to move the Kings from Sacramento north, rebrand them the SuperSonics and revive a local NBA legacy cut short in 2008 when owner Clay Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City and turned them into the Thunder. The NBA confirmed those reports on Monday morning.

[Related: Kings to Seattle a done deal, Sonics will return]

News of the reported sale, understandably, drew plenty of attention from all sorts of people involved with the NBA ... including reigning MVP LeBron James, who took to Twitter with a pretty strong reaction to the steep financial figure cited in stories about the sale:

James has a point, of course — it does seem pretty remarkable that just over a year after the league told anyone who would listen that the NBA's business model was broken, that owners were finding it so impossible to operate teams at a profit that players needed to give back tens of millions of dollars per year in a scaled-back basketball-related income split and harder caps on what players could earn in salary lest the league's economy capsize, long-moribund franchises are selling for boatloads of cash. It's almost like the lockout wasn't about the league and its owners being poor, but rather the league and its owners being very, very eager to become richer. Imagine that.

Also, a couple of things about the reported sale:

• In the interest of clarity, as has been reported by multiple outlets, that $525 million figure likely includes relocation fees required for any move from Sacramento to Seattle and represents an overall franchise valuation rather than a price tag for how much the Seattle group would be spending on what they're buying; a 65 percent share (which reportedly combines the Maloofs' 53 percent interest and part-owner Robert Hernreich's 12 percent stake) would mean that the Hansen-Ballmer group will pay just north of $340 million. So it's not quite as insane a figure as LeBron James might think.

• That said, both the overall valuation and the reported purchase price are still way more than the $300 million valuation Forbes gave the Kings last year, when it ranked the team as the eighth-least valuable franchise in the NBA.

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• This continues a trend of rising franchise prices. In late October, the NBA signed off on the sale of the Memphis Grizzlies from owner Michael Heisley to a new group led by Silicon Valley businessman Robert Pera for $377 million; Forbes pegged the Grizzlies' valuation at $269 million last year. The Memphis deal came four months after the NBA finalized its sale of the New Orleans Hornets to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who paid $338 million for the team; that's $20 million more than the league reportedly paid when it took the team over from George Shinn in 2010 and far more than the $285 million valuation that Forbes placed on that franchise. As ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz wrote, "It's clearly a fine day to own an NBA franchise."

• Also, in the interest of fairness to Kings fans, it's worth remembering that the move isn't a done deal just yet. As the NBA noted in its Monday morning statement, the "proposed transaction is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and has been referred to the Board's committee process for review." Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson still plans to address the Board of Governors during its April 18 meeting in an effort to sway the board into staying the sale and/or forcing the Maloofs into working with a prospective local buyer.

Johnson and Sacramento remain undeterred in the face of pending disaster, according to a statement issued Sunday night and shared by ESPN.com's Marc Stein:

"Sacramento has proven that it is a strong NBA market with a fan base that year in and year out has demonstrated a commitment to the Kings by selling out 19 of 27 seasons in a top 20 market and owning two of the longest sellout streaks in NBA history [...]

"When it comes to keeping the team in our community, Sacramento is playing to win. In particular, we have been focused like a laser on identifying an ownership group that will both have the financial resources desired by the NBA and the vision to make the Kings the NBA equivalent of what the Green Bay Packers have been in the NFL."

James acknowledged Johnson's continued role in attempts to stave off relocation:

But, as SB Nation's Mike Prada notes, Sunday's finalization of the sale agreement does make an 11th-hour save feel something like a longshot. As a result, and as you might've suspected, Sacramentans are furious at the Maloofs. It's hard to blame them.

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