By Jon Weisman
An investment group led by Dodgers controlling owner Mark R. Walter and co-owners Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Todd L. Boehly, Robert L. Patton and Stan Kasten is purchasing the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, who will continue to play at Staples Center.
“I love basketball and I love women’s basketball, so this was really simple and easy for Mark and I,” Johnson said at a press conference today. “It’s funny – we were on a plane and we turned to each other and said, ‘Let’s buy the Sparks.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s go do it.’ And so here we are.”
Said Walter in a statement: “Earvin came to me and said we need to help save the Sparks and keep them in Los Angeles. The decision was quite easy for our investment group due to the passion Magic has for this city, these great athletes and our phenomenal fans.” This team and its great players should remain a part of the sports fabric of this wonderful city.
One of the league’s original eight teams, the Sparks won the WNBA championship in 2001 and 2002, and is the last team to have earned titles in consecutive seasons. Los Angeles advanced to the Western Conference Finals in three of the past six seasons, most recently in 2012. WNBA All-Stars Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver lead the squad.
The Sparks “have been in limbo since Christmas when their previous owner, Paula Madison, abruptly told the league and Sparks coaches and employees that her company could no longer operate the team,” Ramona Shelburne wrote for ESPN.com.
In the press conference, Johnson said that the new owners believe the Sparks can be profitable, reports Melissa Rohlin of the Times. .
“We know what we’re up against and that’s OK,” Johnson said. “We love challenges. We feel, yes, we’re going to eventually make a profit, no question about it. That’s why we’re in business, to make a profit. … We want to increase the fan experience because that’s what we did for the Dodgers, that’s why we’re No. 1 in MLB in attendance.”