The Sacramento Kings said Thursday they’ve bought controlling interest in the Reno Bighorns, their affiliate in the NBA Development League.
The Kings and Bighorns have been affiliated for eight years, since the Reno club was founded, and Sacramento has controlled the Bighorns’ basketball operations since 2013. With the deal announced Thursday, “the Kings will now assume all business operations of the Bighorns,” the team said.
The Kings are the 15th NBA franchise to own their D-League affiliate. The D-League, which has 22 teams, serves as a minor league, feeding promising players to the parent clubs. Among those who’ve played for the Bighorns: former King Hassan Whiteside, now with the Miami Heat.
Early reports suggested the Kings planned to move the Bighorns closer to Sacramento, but the team said the D-League club will stay put. Still, Kings President Chris Granger said he’d like to see the Bighorns eventually play “a couple of games here in Sacramento, at the very least.”
By owning controlling interest, Granger said the Kings could use the Bighorns as a marketing platform for the parent club and its corporate sponsors. “We want to continue to grow the Kings brand,” he said.
Herb Santos Jr., who owned the Bighorns outright before selling controlling interest to the Kings, said he’d received informal inquiries for several years from potential purchasers. He chose to cement the Bighorns’ ties to the Kings.
“To make it a more permanent relationship, I felt it was a good thing to do,” said Santos, a Reno lawyer.
Neither Santos nor the Kings would disclose the sale price, but Santos said the deal was in line with values placed recently on other D-League teams. Sports Business Journal reported that a new D-League franchise near Toronto sold for $6 million last year. Santos retains a 20 percent interest in the Reno club.
“We’re excited to deepen our relationship with the Bighorns and the Reno/Tahoe community,” said Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive in a prepared statement. “This is an incredible opportunity to develop players, front-office staff and future business executives for the Sacramento Kings, while simultaneously contributing meaningfully to the Reno entertainment, commercial and nonprofit ecosystem.”