The Warriors were awarded a WNBA team that will play its first season in 2025.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Joe Lacob couldn’t help but recall the promise he made to Warriors fans when he purchased the NBA franchise in 2010.
“I am telling you right now, we will win a WNBA championship in the first five years of this franchise,” Lacob said at a news conference at the Chase Center on Thursday.
Patience is not a word that is often used to describe Lacob. That is evident in his audacious goal of transforming a blank roster into a championship-winning team in five years. But, in his pursuit of bringing a WNBA team to the Bay Area, he demonstrated exactly that, according to former Warriors president Rick Welts.
The Warriors attempted to bring a team to Northern California on two occasions: in 2013, when the future of the Los Angeles Sparks was uncertain, and in 2017, when the San Antonio Stars, now the Las Vegas Aces, were up for sale.
Lacob concluded that the timing was off in both cases. But, with the pandemic behind us, Chase Center up and running for three years, and the WNBA’s valuation skyrocketing, Lacob’s long-held dream of relocating a women’s professional basketball team to the Bay Area is finally becoming a reality.
The Warriors were announced as part of the WNBA’s first league expansion since 2008.
Onstage with Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber on Thursday were WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert, San Francisco mayor London Breed, and Warriors COO Brandon Schneider. Former WNBA stars Sheryl Swoopes and Seimone Augustus were also in attendance, as were Stanford coaching legend Tara VanDerveer, Cal coach Charmin Smith, and USF coach Molly Goodenbour.
The unnamed team will begin its inaugural season in 2025, playing at Chase Center while practicing and stationed at the Warriors’ Oakland facility.
“If you know anything about me, I have things on my list, this is one of them,” he said. “I’ve wanted to do this and it hurt me not to be able to do this for our fans and the fans of women’s basketball in the Bay Area.”
Englebert referred to the Bay Area as a “hub for women’s sports,” citing the region’s six Division I basketball programs. The WNBA also saw the economic growth potential of having a team near Silicon Valley and in the 10th largest media market at a time when the league is looking to expand its corporate partnerships and prepare for a new TV deal in 2025.
When Engelbert handed the WNBA ball to Lacob and Guber during the introductory press conference, VanDerveer, who was sitting in the front row, got goosebumps.
“It was absolutely thrilling,” said VanDerveer. “It was fantastic. I’m confident that the Warriors organization will field a fantastic team that will be another source of pride for women’s basketball in the Bay Area.
Engelbert called it a “great sign” that two groups were interested in bringing a team to the Bay Area: the Warriors and the Oakland-based African American Sports and Entertainment Group, led by former WNBA star Alanna Beard. But Golden State was always the better team.
The Warriors were recently valued at $7 billion, which is more than 15 times what Lacob’s group paid for the team in 2010. Lacob intends to be as aggressive in establishing a WNBA franchise as he was in revitalizing Golden State.
“We’re not idiots; we know what we’re doing.” “We know why this is such a great time,” Lacob explained. “We understand why this is a great sport to be a part of, and we intend to build great winning teams here.” But we also want to build a great company.”
Many Warriors fans were overjoyed that a team was finally coming to the Bay Area.
“This is such a basketball hotbed already and a place that really is going to embrace women’s basketball,” Steve Kerr said in a statement. “I’m so happy that it’s actually happening and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”
“There’s no better time for growing women’s basketball and sports in general and invest in the game,” Curry said in a statement.
Klay Thompson grew up watching the Portland Fire before moving to Southern California and witnessing the Sparks win two titles under Lisa Leslie.
“Hopefully, now in my adulthood, I can see some WNBA championships brought to the Bay,” Thompson said in a statement. “This is a special day.”
Engelbert stated that the Warriors paid a “record-breaking expansion fee,” but he did not elaborate. Lacob’s group will pay $50 million, just $3 million less than what Bay FC paid earlier this year to bring a NWSL team to the area next summer, according to Sportico.
Lacob is the type of owner the WNBA requires. His fierce commitment to winning and track record of providing resources to help an organization strengthen should aid the WNBA’s ascension.
“We’re doing it all first-class and first-rate, and we already have the facilities, we have this,” Lacob said, motioning toward Chase Center. “Now we can invest in the team and the building revenues and getting the right people on staff and making this a great business, a great organization.”
Lacob fulfilled his first promise when the Warriors won their first of four championships in 2015. Is he capable of doing it again?
While the answer is still unknown, Welts is confident that Lacob and Guber will invest and position the WNBA franchise for success.
“They care most about winning, and they care a lot about how they do it,” Welts, a Bay FC board member, said. “I believe that motivated ownership is what leads to long-term success for professional sports franchises, and the Warriors are a perfect example of that.” I wouldn’t expect anything less from the WNBA team.”
VanDerveer concurred, saying, “When they put their name on something, it’s going to be good.”