MONEY TALKS: Web-Exclusive Joe Maloof 20 Questions

Money may talk, but skateboarders are no stranger to walking when something smells funny. No doubt, our bullsh-t detector has been pretty sensitive in recent years, so it came as a bit of a surprise when some of the biggest pros in skateboarding embraced one of the biggest names in professional basketball. The Maloof family—the ridiculously wealthy owners of the Sacramento Kings and the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, with no connections to skateboarding—announced almost two years ago that they’d be financing the richest skate contest in our history. It’s safe to say our B.S. meter rocketed off the charts. But two years’ worth of careful planning and expert advice later, The Maloof Money Cup is poised to be one of the most watchable events in recent memory. To skip the PR spin, I headed straight to the source: Joe Maloof, chief backer of the Money Cup. In the following conversation, I think nearly every question from the jaded, inquiring minds of skateboarders has been answered. Skate skeptics may be surprised, rather pleasantly.—Carleton Curtis

(click the slideshow to the left below for a sneak peek of the street course, plus some of the confirmed riders)

1)    You’ve got a long history with the Sacramento Kings, the Palms Hotel and Casino, and a lot of other high-profile business endeavors. So of all things, how did you end up getting involved with skateboarding?

My brother Gavin and I had a basketball camp for the last six years. We wanted to try something different, and every time I’d look out the window, all I saw were kids skateboarding. In the old days, kids would play catch with the baseball or football, but now it seems like everybody is skateboarding. So I thought we should start a camp in Orange County. When people caught wind of that, different companies and corporations and skaters started calling, so I thought we should turn it into something bigger: a big three-day event celebrating skateboarding.

2)    Are you a better basketball player or skateboarder?

[Laughs] I think I can shoot free throws pretty well… and that’s about it.

3)    Yeah, you should probably stay off the skateboard then. This isn’t the first time big corporate money has been waved in front of skateboarders. Have the skaters you’ve worked with so far been wary of your intentions?

At first, yes. They asked, “Are the Maloofs really serious about this? Why are they getting involved? What are they up to? Why did they pick skateboarding?” All those types of questions. But once we started developing the concept, we thought we should take skateboarding to a different level. And for those who wanted to be involved in a competitive way, the Money Cup was there for them. Then we started getting advice from all the top skaters: Rob Dyrdek helped us design the street course, Jake Brown‘s involved—it’s all people who have credibility in the sport. Every single skater we invited to the Maloof Money Cup is gonna show up.

I saw the list earlier this week. It’s pretty impressive.

Yes it is. We’re proud of that. We just want to do it first-class where the skaters are proud. They’re gonna be treated with a lot of class—they’re gonna have the best lounge for them so they’re comfortable. Because we want to do this next year and e year after. We want this to become an annual event.

4)    On the flipside, what do the Kings players think of your involvement with skateboarding?

[Laughs] Well, all their kids and their kids’ friends, that’s all they do is skateboard. They like it better than basketball. I’m sure a lot of the Kings players will be there and hopefully a few of the Lakers will show up. The NBA really believes in skateboarding and they’re going to have a big booth.

5)    Tell me about your relationship with Brandon Biebel. He’d probably take a bullet for you.

He’s great. You know, he’s always been a Kings fan and I never really knew that. He told me when he was growing up, he practically lived and died with every Kings win and loss. He remembers all the great rivalries we had with the Lakers of course, in the early 2000 period. So I got to know him and asked him if he’d become involved with this and if he would compete, and he said he would, which is very nice of him. We developed a friendship there and I see him at all the games—he comes to every game. He’s just a great guy.

6)    What about Jake Brown? How did a dirty Aussie become a Kings fan?

[Laughs] Monster is gonna be involved in the Maloof Money Cup in a big way. They’ll probably be a partner even though nothing’s official yet. Jake is sponsored by Monster and they wanted me to get to know him. He’s a likable guy, he’s nice to everybody. So he’s helping design the vert course for us.

7)    How involved are you with the skate scenes in Sacramento and Las Vegas?

You know, there are a couple parks right by the Palms Casino. They’re always busy and sometimes I go and talk to the skaters, they give me ideas, tell me about the music they like, and that type of thing. [Laughs]

8)    Why did you decide to base the contest in Orange County, and not in Sacramento or Las Vegas?

It’s a highly populated area where the majority of the skaters live. It’s a hotbed and Orange County and L.A. is really where skateboarding was born. And the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds is a great venue to set up the contest the way we wanted to.

9)    Are you friends with Danny Way? He’s obviously got Vegas connections with his Hard Rock bomb drop a few years ago. And I hear he’s got a stunt planned at the Luxor coming up.

I heard about those stunts but no, I don’t know him. But I’d like to.

10)    Let’s talk about the money part of the Maloof Cup. The sheer size of the purse has drawn a lot of attention to the contest. Was that a strategy of yours or are you just that rich?

No. [Laughs] We had to make this really legitimate. I wanted this to be different from the X Games—skateboarding only. I wanted to attract the best talent with the largest purse ever. I checked all the major skate competitions around the world to see what the different purses were and I said, “Let’s do this right.” This is going to be the best of the best at one place. So if we’re gonna attract the best, we better pay like we mean it. I think it’s close to $450,000 total.

11) I think I might enter now.

Another thing I wanted to do is make sure the guy who came in 6th or 7th or 8th would get a fair paycheck, too. So we spread the money pretty low. You know, we’re gonna a learn a lot the first time around, and one good thing about the Maloofs is that we listen. We’re not know-it-alls—we respect the sport and we respect the lifestyle.

12) I think there’s one thing skateboarders will definitely support you on: the Maloof Money Cup is a 100% skateboarding event.

You’re not second-class citizens. When you watch some of the stuff skateboarders do in slow-motion… it’s spectacular. It’s dangerous, man. [Laughs]

13) Is the contest going to be televised?

Yeah, we’re gonna put it on CBS, which is great. And I think the Fuel network is gonna be involved with the preliminaries. We’re really serious about this. Aside from the contest, we’ve got a big area called the Etnies Village where kids can interact with the skaters. You charge so much for those booths, right? I don’t know what we charge, but I wanted to make sure that some of the small skateshops and companies involved that don’t have the bankroll for big booths would be given booths for free. We take care of people and I want everyone in the sport to be involved. I really believe in skateboarding and I want to invest in its future.

14) How was the advisory committee decided upon? You’ve got Dyrdek, Jake, and even Dave Duncan in the mix.

I have so much respect for Rob. I think he’s the future of skateboarding. He’s got some great ideas and I was ready to learn from them all. They’re all positive people and I like surrounding myself with positive people. They believe in this—trust me, if they didn’t believe in it, they wouldn’t put their name behind it.

15) You’ve got a challenge ahead of you, but the hero names involved will definitely help the event.

We had Jake Brown and Rob Dyrdek at Arco Arena and they were the biggest celebrities we’ve had there. The kids lined up around the arena to get their autographs. It was incredible, because we’ve had big athletes, movie stars, and rock stars, but nobody had attracted the kind of crowd that Jake and Rob did. It really opened my eyes and my brother’s.

16) What’s the street course going to look like?

The street course will be designed by the skaters—Andrew Reynolds, Rob, and a couple other guys. It’s going to be a beautiful skate course, something that’s never been skated before in a competition. We’re gonna lay down the cement, it’s gonna be a spectacular course designed by the best skaters, then when it’s all over, we destroy it. Never to be skated on again.

17) That’s a travesty.

I know. It’s expensive too! [Laughs] Be we have to do this right.

18) You mentioned earlier that you want the Maloof Money Cup to be an annual event. Are you planning on branching out into other areas in skateboarding, too?

I think there’s been some talk about starting a complete professional tour. Those are mainly Rob Dyrdek’s ideas. There’d be stops in different cities and they’d all culminate at the Maloof Money Cup—like the world series of skateboarding. mean it. I think it’s close to $450,000 total.

11) I think I might enter now.

Another thing I wanted to do is make sure the guy who came in 6th or 7th or 8th would get a fair paycheck, too. So we spread the money pretty low. You know, we’re gonna a learn a lot the first time around, and one good thing about the Maloofs is that we listen. We’re not know-it-alls—we respect the sport and we respect the lifestyle.

12) I think there’s one thing skateboarders will definitely support you on: the Maloof Money Cup is a 100% skateboarding event.

You’re not second-class citizens. When you watch some of the stuff skateboarders do in slow-motion… it’s spectacular. It’s dangerous, man. [Laughs]

13) Is the contest going to be televised?

Yeah, we’re gonna put it on CBS, which is great. And I think the Fuel network is gonna be involved with the preliminaries. We’re really serious about this. Aside from the contest, we’ve got a big area called the Etnies Village where kids can interact with the skaters. You charge so much for those booths, right? I don’t know what we charge, but I wanted to make sure that some of the small skateshops and companies involved that don’t have the bankroll for big booths would be given booths for free. We take care of people and I want everyone in the sport to be involved. I really believe in skateboarding and I want to invest in its future.

14) How was the advisory committee decided upon? You’ve got Dyrdek, Jake, and even Dave Duncan in the mix.

I have so much respect for Rob. I think he’s the future of skateboarding. He’s got some great ideas and I was ready to learn from them all. They’re all positive people and I like surrounding myself with positive people. They believe in this—trust me, if they didn’t believe in it, they wouldn’t put their name behind it.

15) You’ve got a challenge ahead of you, but the hero names involved will definitely help the event.

We had Jake Brown and Rob Dyrdek at Arco Arena and they were the biggest celebrities we’ve had there. The kids lined up around the arena to get their autographs. It was incredible, because we’ve had big athletes, movie stars, and rock stars, but nobody had attracted the kind of crowd that Jake and Rob did. It really opened my eyes and my brother’s.

16) What’s the street course going to look like?

The street course will be designed by the skaters—Andrew Reynolds, Rob, and a couple other guys. It’s going to be a beautiful skate course, something that’s never been skated before in a competition. We’re gonna lay down the cement, it’s gonna be a spectacular course designed by the best skaters, then when it’s all over, we destroy it. Never to be skated on again.

17) That’s a travesty.

I know. It’s expensive too! [Laughs] Be we have to do this right.

18) You mentioned earlier that you want the Maloof Money Cup to be an annual event. Are you planning on branching out into other areas in skateboarding, too?

I think there’s been some talk about starting a complete professional tour. Those are mainly Rob Dyrdek’s ideas. There’d be stops in different cities and they’d all culminate at the Maloof Money Cup—like the world series of skateboarding.

19) I’ve got one last question for you. I’ve been a massive Kings fan since my family and I moved to Folsom in 1986. So let’s talk about the most important subject of all: How are you going to get us back in the Playoffs next year?

[Laughs] Well, We’re gonna have to ask Reggie [Theus] that question. You know what I think we’re gonna have to do? I think we’re pretty well set up now. You watch, this Spencer Hawes… he’s really going to be tremendous. He’s seven feet tall and he’s 19 or 20 years old. Kevin, ‘Cisco… they all get along well together. The big question is Ron [Artest]. What’s he gonna do? In two years, we’ll have 35 million under the cap. So we’ll finally have some room to get two really good free agents, not just one. You’ll have Lebron James, Kobe [Bryant]… they’re all coming out.

20) How ironic would it be to see Kobe in a Kings uniform?

Oh god, I know. He’s something else. You either love him or hate him, but the league couldn’t survive if you didn’t have the stars. Skateboarding is the same way.
(Click the slideshow to the left above for a sneak peek of the street course, plus some of the confirmed riders..) ing.

19) I’ve got one last question for you. I’ve been a massive Kings fan since my family and I moved to Folsom in 1986. So let’s talk about the most important subject of all: How are you going to get us back in the Playoffs next year?

[Laughs] Well, We’re gonna have to ask Reggie [Theus] that question. You know what I think we’re gonna have to do? I think we’re pretty well set up now. You watch, this Spencer Hawes… he’s really going to be tremendous. He’s seven feet tall and he’s 19 or 20 years old. Kevin, ‘Cisco… they all get along well together. The big question is Ron [Artest]. What’s he gonna do? In two years, we’ll have 35 million under the cap. So we’ll finally have some room to get two really good free agents, not just one. You’ll have Lebron James, Kobe [Bryant]… they’re all coming out.

20) How ironic would it be to see Kobe in a Kings uniform?

Oh god, I know. He’s something else. You either love him or hate him, but the league couldn’t survive if you didn’t have the stars. Skateboarding is the same way.
(Click the slideshow to the left above for a sneak peek of the street course, plus some of the confirmed riders..)