Name, Position, and Location
Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Sacramento Kings
Current Practice Areas/Industries
I am responsible for all legal issues for the Sacramento Kings and its affiliates. This includes the Sacramento Kings, the Golden 1 Center, our G-League Team in Stockton, our e-sports team, our hotel, retail, and other real estate assets as well.
I had a circuitous route through my educational experience. I first attended the University of Oregon, where I played soccer. Then after two years there, I transferred to UC-Davis. While there, I also studied for a year at the American University in Cairo and played basketball there. After Cairo, I returned to UC-Davis and graduated with a degree in Philosophy and History.
Then I went to law school at Tulane University Law School. I was the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property and received my Sports Law Certificate.
Did you always hope to work in sports law? What did you do in law school to prepare yourself for those opportunities?
I have always been drawn to sports and was certainly interested in it in law school. I did a lot of things throughout law school to try to stay connected to sports, including getting my Sports Law Certificate.
One interesting experience I had was that I got certified as an NFL Agent as a law school student to see if I was interested in that area of sports. During my summers, on top of what I was doing, I would try to contact potential clients and travel across the country to try to meet with NFL prospects. It was an amazing experience, and while I decided that it was not the career path I wanted to take, it was a great experience for me.
What work did you do following law school?
While I was in law school, I interned one summer for the Eastern District of California for Judge David Levi, who was a wonderful mentor for me. My second summer, I clerked at the Diepenbrock Firm, where I returned after law school. At Diepenbrock, I initially worked in both the general litigation department and on matters involving land use and environmental law, but eventually shifted over entirely to the latter. I worked under Mark Harrison, who was another great mentor of mine. He was an extremely hard worker who expected a lot from his associates and I am grateful for his mentoring.
I worked at Diepenbrock, which then became Diepenbrock Harrison, for ten years, eventually becoming a partner, focusing on land use and environmental law. Following that experience, the firm split to focus on more specialized areas, and so along with two partners, I started my own firm, The Pioneer Group LLP.
While there, I was fortunate enough to be voted as a Business Journal 40 under 40, and was able to work on Kevin Johnson’s campaign to be mayor of Sacramento and chair his transition team after winning the election.
How did you get connected and begin working with the Kings?
In 2013, when the Kings were under contract to move to Seattle, Mayor Kevin Johnson reached out to me to see if I would be willing to help him develop and execute a plan to keep the team in Sacramento. Working together with a host of others, we were able to develop a plan to successfully keep the team in Sacramento, against all odds. Following that, the Kings engaged me as their chief outside counsel to lead the development and construction of the Golden 1 Center.
Eventually, in 2017, I was asked to come in-house as the organization’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel. My knowledge of the Golden 1 Center, as well as my experience representing and working with teams in other professional sports leagues, made the transition fairly seamless.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
I love that there are so many complex problems to solve. I also really appreciate that I can cover lots of different areas of work in my position.
What piece of advice would you give to a current law student?
The best advice I can give is to be good at what you do. Sports teams have the luxury of hiring the best – which includes the best tax lawyers, corporate lawyers, litigation lawyers, etc. Strive to differentiate yourself in your respective legal field, while keeping your eye on sports market opportunities. So don’t worry so much about sports, just focus on being the best you can at whatever it is you are doing. I did real estate and land use work, and I worked hard to be good at that. Eventually, it led me to the opportunity to work in my preferred market – sports.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I do lots of outdoor activities and spend time with family. I am an avid amateur cyclist, and currently ride for Shriners / Trek Racing.
Connor Oniki is a second-year law student at Harvard Law School and the Supervising Online Editor of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law.