Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson is reportedly interested in buying the Clippers if Donald Sterling is forced to sell the team. (Getty Images)
Baseball’s Detroit Tigers and hockey’s Detroit Red Wings have been owned by the same man, Mike Ilitch, since 1992. There is little overlap between the MLB and NHL seasons, so it’s not hard to share the same core group of fans. There are no other MLB or NHL teams in town. For his part, Ilitch quickly turned the Red Wings from a loser into one of hockey’s most valuable brands
. By the time he bought the Tigers, he had built up enough goodwill in the city to be welcomed by local baseball fans with open arms.
For those who question if it’s possible to own two teams in the same market, look no further than Detroit.
Los Angeles is not Detroit, of course, and it might be time to start asking questions in Southern California. Magic Johnson has reportedly expressed interest in buying the NBA’s Clippers from disgraced owner Donald Sterling. What would it look like if the Dodgers and Clippers were owned by the same group?
Fans already boo Clippers star Chris Paul whenever he’s shown on the video board at Dodger Stadium. Pau Gasol and other Lakers are cheered like the hometown team. Clearly, Dodger Stadium is a Laker stadium. This might get weird.
Or will it? If Johnson is the face of Dodger ownership, he’s also the face of the WNBA’s Sparks and Magic Johnson Theaters. His name is not synonymous with the Dodgers; it’s synonymous with “multiple business interests.” In theory, it should be easy to put the Clippers in the context of Another Magic Johnson Business Interest. Same goes for the other Guggenheim investors; it’s yet to be seen how many of them want in on the Clippers.
In practice, how weird this gets might depend on why Dodger fans boo Clipper players. Is it a knee-jerk reaction to the Clipper brand from Laker fans? Is it because of Sterling? Is it just a Chris Paul thing?
Sterling might be replaceable; we’ll find out soon enough. Paul’s time as a Clipper is inherently temporary. But if it’s a knee-jerk reaction from Laker fans, this might not go over well.
Johnson was a minority owner of the Lakers until 2010, when he sold his shares to Patrick Soon-Shiong, but that didn’t really change his status as a face of (and a mouthpiece for) the Lakers franchise. A world in which Magic Johnson owns the Clippers could be an uncomfortable one for Laker fans. This could be perceived as heel turn worse than Phil Jackson joining the Knicks’ front office.
Johnson said last October in Atlanta that Los Angeles can be both a Lakers town and a Dodgers town. Selling Dodger fans on the idea that this can be a Clipper town too might be beyond even Johnson’s long reach.
Some bullet points for an International Astronomy Day: