In the days before his friend's Las Vegas bachelor's party in the spring of 2008, Jason Levien placed a call. It was to Joe Maloof, of the Maloofs who then owned the Palms casino and still own the NBA's Sacramento Kings. How about dinner, Levien asked.

So the night after the party — for Harold Ford Jr., Levien's law school friend and the former 9th District Congressman — they met for a meal. It was not a cold call. Levien was a sports agent with an increasing profile by that time; months earlier he had negotiated a $55 million contract extension between the Kings and his client Kevin Martin. The conversation meandered to one life-changing question, which came from the Maloofs: Do you want to work for us as general counsel and assistant general manager of the Kings?

Levien's dilemma was real. On one hand, he was beginning to make millions as an NBA agent. On the other, he fancied himself running a team. Here came the opportunity, but it would mean a significant lifestyle change and a move from his Miami condo to California's inland state capital.