Basketball

GSW & VC funding

2016.06

What happened when VC took over the GSW
Basketball
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Recently, VC, PE, and Tech capitals have been flocking to the NBA.

  • About ¼ of NBA majority stockholders are made up of VC, PE, and IT conglomerates.
  • E.g., Golden State Warriors (Joe Lacob, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers), LA Clippers (Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft), Detroit Pistons (Tom Gores, Platinum Equity), Boston Celtics (Grousbeck, Highland Capital Partners), Milwaukee Bucks (Marc Lasry, Avenue Capital Group) Philadelphia 76ers (Joshua Harris, Apollo Global Management), Sacramento Kings (Vivek Ranadivé, the founder of TIBCO, a real-time computing company)

However, only the Golden State Warriors have been overwhelmingly successful in terms of their performance/popularity/profit.

  • Warriors’ record: Before Joe Lacob acquired the team, the GSW were the worst NBA team After Joe Lacob’s acquisition, the GSW dominated the courts, breaking the record for the longest winning streak in NBA history (a title held previously by the Chicago Bulls during Michael Jordan’s reign).
    • In the 5 years since Joe Lacob took ownership, the Warriors have produced a regular season record of 224-170, a winning percentage of .569 (From 1995-2009 under Chris Cohan, the Warriors produced a regular-season record of 417-699, a winning percentage of .374)
    • In the 5 years since Joe Lacob took ownership, the Warriors have made the playoffs three times and won an NBA championship (In the 16 years previous, the Warriors made the playoffs once)
    • In the 5 years since Joe Lacob took ownership, the Warriors have been represented at the All Star Game four times; Steph Curry twice, Klay Thompson, David Lee. (In the 16 years previous, under Chris Cohan, the Warriors had one All-Star representative; Latrell Sprewell in 1997)
  • Profit/value: the Warriors, which was valued at $450M at the time of the acquisition, is now valued at $1.9B, raking in a solid $210M (according to 2015 standards) and $57.6M in sales profits every year.
  • Popularity: In the last 3 seasons, all seats in all home games were sold out (in a stadium that holds 20,000). The Warriors also boasted a 99% repurchase rate, gained 14 million followers on various social media platforms, and saw a 423% boost in sales through team merchandise (jerseys, etc).

These results were made possible not only by the capital provided by the Silicon Valley, but also by the spirit of change and innovation that pervades the Valley.

  • The Warriors’ Vision in 2010: to become the world’s best basketball team in the next five years, in terms of performance, popularity, and profits.
  • Winning Strategy
    • The winning team: the Warriors implemented a unique “formula” for victory: “Defense, Rebound, and Size”
    • The popular team: the Warriors implemented a “Fun, Fast, Speed” technique so that each game would be a thrilling experience for fans and spectators.
    • A team that generates a profit: the Warriors used science and technology to enhance the entertainment factor of games within their home arena, thus boosting audience satisfaction.
  • Aligned action + bold move
    • Player: Build a team that is compatible with game plays. The Warriors traded Monta Ells, the team’s best player at the time, with the tall center, Andrew Bogut, and set Stephen Curry, a strong defense and shooter, as the point guard. In addition, they drafted Klay Thompson, who would be compatible with the team’s strategies.
    • Coach: The team hired a young but talented coach who understands the club’s philosophy and strategy. The team hired Mark Jackson, who had no previous coaching experience (high winning rate as a center defense) from 2011 to 2014, and Steve Kerr, (creative thinker, effective communicator, and teamwork-oriented) in 2014.
    • Front: Jerry West, an MBA with 30+ years under his belt, became the advisor to the club’s board of directors. He directed the selection of Bob Myers as the general manager.
    • High-Tech: The team introduced advanced IT systems to aid in training, game analysis, and player care (e.g., wearable wristbands to measure heart rate/movement; multiple cameras within the court to record and analyze passes, dribbles, and shots.)
    • Customer service: Free WiFi within the stadium (for 20,000 spectators), adjusting parking spaces to minimize traffic, increase customer satisfaction by collecting and using data related to the design and food.
  • Open Culture
    • Player-Coach: Open communication between the players and the coach in order to enforce dynamic, creative, and strategic plays.
    • Club management: Removal of office walls and redesigning the space to be more open in order to enhance communication and creative problem solving.
    • Customers: Active participation on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram to provide customers with various information (e.g., Curry’s training videos, live two-way interactions between players during feedback sessions).
  • IT-backed system & data-driven management
    • Every aspect of the GSW, from strategies, training, and care, to club management and customer service, was supported by data that helped the team make optimal, fact-based decisions.
  • Investing in the future
    • In 2019, the GWS will move home arena from Oakland to San Francisco, and the team plans to have space where visitors can experience games at a whole different & upgraded level.

The key difference between the Warriors and other VC/PE/Tech supported teams is the leadership demonstrated by Joe Lacob.

  • Lacob recognized talent and supported the growth of players in whom he saw potential (e.g., Joe Lacob helped Steph Curry become the player he is today.)
  • Decisions were made with input from many experts in different fields (e.g., Joe Lacob is known to consult with and respect the opinions of Jerry West and Bob Myer).
  • Despite the criticism, Lacob made daring decisions in order to contribute to the change, innovation, and future of the team (e.g., in 2010, Lacob traded in the team’s best player and put the inexperienced Curry as the point guard. He also replaced Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr as the new coach).

Sadly, the GSW were defeated by Lebron James and the Cleveland at the end of 2016 season and failed to defend their 2015 championship title. However, it is clear that their 2015 victory was no coincidence.

What enabled the NBA’s worst team to become the best team within a short 3-4 years? Is large capital enough to transform a mediocre sports team into a stellar one? Do you think the Warriors will be able to experience another winning streak in the following season?

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