By now you probably know the Maloof brothers, the high-rolling owners of the Sacramento Kings. The Maloofs made their bones owning and operating the very cool Palms hotel in Vegas. Needless to say, this time five years ago, the family was flush with cash.
(Gavin (l) and Joe Maloof flying commercial now? I think they’ll live)
But the perfect storm has since hit the family, with Vegas suffering a catastrophic loss in visitors and the Kings having plummeted in the standings. So like most NBA teams these days, the Maloofs have laid off staff and made a myriad other organization cutbacks.
But one such belt-tightening move stands out above the rest.
The Maloofs are now flying commercial. *gasp*
That’s right, the Kings’ co-owners are done with the pricey, private jets and are bouncing in and out of airports with the rest of us when traveling from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and wherever else their endeavors take them. And from what I’m told, their airline of choice is Southwest.
On the downside, the security lines, baggage claim delays and tightly compacted seats certainly elicit some culture shock. But there is a positive that I can attest to, as enough flights on Southwest earns you an annual companion pass and - alas! - more savings. So long as Joe and Gavin fly together, of course.
What’s more, the Maloofs have yet to make any layoffs in these tough economic times. That’s more than most struggling companies can say.
If that isn’t a sure sign that this economic downturn is as real as it gets, I don’t know what is. I think a lot of us believe that the well-monied elite are completely immune to the markets crashing, but clearly, this indicates they aren’t.
Or does it?
I was on a Southwest flight to Vegas years ago, sometime in the early ’00s when I turned to my left and noticed Lakers Owner Jerry Buss reclined two seats over.
I’m guessing Buss isn’t alone. In fact, I’ve heard a nasty rumor that George Shinn is partial to Going Greyhound.
OK, maybe not.
But I do think the next shoe to drop will be teams flying commercial. Keep in mind, teams flying private is only a recent phenomenon, started up in past decade. And we all know about the $200M loan the NBA recently received just to help clubs make payroll.
When oil prices spike once again, we might start seeing teams enduring early morning wakeups and pesky connections in beloved hubs like Cincinnati and Salt Lake City.
I lived that life (flying commercial) for many years as a broadcaster doing Triple-A baseball in Columbus and minor league hockey on the east coast. And let me tell you, 4 a.m. wakeups every 3-4 days are a lifestyle non-starter. The travel was so bad that I often heard players yearn for the bus leagues, because sleep was so much more difficult thanks to the early morning wakeups required for commercial flight.
All that said, I think it’s safe to assume that’d we all get a chuckle if flying commercial befell NBA players. And all pro sports leagues for that matter. I know for myself, the people watching at the LAX Southwest terminal could use a serious upgrade.