December 30, 2021

What We're Reading: December 2021

From crypto investors buying sports teams to seismic shifts in NBA officiating, the SSAC team enters into our holiday season with visions of NFT animals and NBA Christmas uniforms dancing in our heads.

Buying sports teams is no longer a family matter 

For most of the history of professional sports, teams have been owned by families that started the teams or leagues and the high net worth individuals who bought out those legacy owners. This landscape has seen some major shifts in recent years as investor groups are starting to gain major traction. First, the Pittsburgh Penguins were purchased by the Fenway Sports Group, a sports investment group that owns our hometown Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, Roush Racing, and England’s Liverpool FC. They also count Lebron James as one of their investors. Then later in December, the NHL became the latest league to allow Private Equity firms to invest in their teams joining the NBA, MLB, and MLS.

Private Equity firms are not the only groups interested in sports teams, however. After a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) came close to purchasing a copy of the U.S. Constitution, another group of crypto investors, who call themselves Krause Hause DAO, has eyes set on the purchase of an NBA team. Currently valued at about $40M, they have a long way to go to reach the estimated $1.3B price of the lowest valued team in the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies, and there is no certainty that the NBA will even let them buy a team. This group is not even the only one using cryptocurrency. A group by the name of WAGMI United, is using crypto to fund its yet-to-be-announced purchase of a lower league English Football League Club. This group may not have Lebron James but it does include Sloan Sports Analytics Conference founder Daryl Morey as an investor. Additionally, the host of a podcast about bitcoin purchased his hometown side and has plans to turn them into the “#bitcoin club.”

The NBA’s offseason changes to foul calls has impacted some positions much more than others

It is only fitting that we are reading about basketball as it celebrated its 125th birthday in December. The way the game is played is constantly evolving and rule changes must be implemented to corral those changes into meaningful growth for the game. This past offseason, the NBA made some rule changes to what they call “unnatural movements” that some of the league’s elite relied upon for foul calls. The goal was to allow for better game flow and improve the entertainment experience. A couple months into the season, and we can now start to see how it is impacting the game. Free throws per game are down from all-time highs, fouls are at the lowest they have ever been in the history of the game, and smaller players are feeling the brunt of the rule changes. Shooting guards and point guards have seen the largest dip in their free throw rates (26% and 15% respectively; free throw rate is defined as free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts), while centers have seen an increase of 1%. It will be interesting to see how these changes affect the game in the long term, but in a poll conducted by SB Nation, 87% of fans are in favor of the new rule changes.