This game is all about money. At least, if you ask the owners anyway. Tickets at MSG can cost thousands, players get paid in millions, and even a drink at a halftime is at least ten bucks. So we decided to take a look at who’s raking it in just for putting five guys on the court and playing some basketball. This isn’t about whose owner can pay out the most, this is about which teams bring in the most in ticket sales and merchandising, and overall franchise value. This is a who’s who of basketball’s 1%, and the money they’re making is something you need to read to believe.
Nothing brings cash like fans. And fans flock to success, like the lasting success of the Celtics. 21-time NBA champions, the Boston Celtics have a tradition of winning, marketable stars (at least, until KG and Pierce left), a large local fanbase, and a strong team identity. Add to that, naming rights to the Garden, which pull in a cool $6 million a year, and that adds up to the Celtics being one of the most valuable teams in the league, valued at $730 million.
$800 million is a lot of money to for the Chicago Bulls. Consider the fact the team has only made the conference finals once since Air Jordan’s departure, and that the team seemed to lack a legitimate star until lately. But the emergence of players like Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, along with a fiercly loyal fanbase that has never left, has helped the Bulls compete with the biggest names in the league. And the lasting royalties from sales of Pippen, Rodman and Jordan jerseys, which are still selling briskly, can’t hurt either.
Los Angeles Lakers
Success breeds money, and the Lakers are evidence of that – even more than their inter-conference rivals in Boston. Not only have the Lakers had lasting success, but the marketing power of Kobe Bryant (especially popular in China), and Pau Gasol (popular in his native Spain, of course), makes the Lakers one of the most profitable teams in the world. A monster new TV deal helps push the Lakers up past the one billion dollar mark, in terms of overall value, and it’s local fans are nothing to sniff at. Over 250,000 local fans see each game on TV.
New York Knicks
Despite continued failures on and off the court, Forbes’ $1.1 billion valuation of the New York Knicks makes it the NBA’s richest basketball team. Part of the dysfunction is precisely because of this largess. As a team that will always have money to throw at the problem, the team has little impetus to improve through the draft, or build a contender. But the team at least owns Madison Square Garden outright, with no debt to its name, and boasts an operating income almost double that of Los Angeles. Moreover, as the only New York team for thirty-five years, the Knicks had unrestricted access to the New York City fanbase – one of the world’s most rabid and loyal.
Real Madrid Baloncesto
Thirty-one time Spanish champions Real Madrid Baloncesto get the final spot on this list, with a valuation of over $3.3 billion. Of course, that’s not solely for the basketball team – that valuation includes all the Real Madrid sports clubs – including the lucrative football division. But this clubwide valuation, combined with its record 8 Euroleague Basket titles, 31 Spanish championships, and the celebrity status that goes with being Real Madrid, makes Real Madrid a worthy addition to the list.