The richest NBA teams are worth billions accrued from their brand names, arenas and winning various championships. According to Forbes' yearly analysis of the most valuable sports teams, the value of NBA franchises continues to rise despite the recent negative publicity surrounding the sport.
Towards the end of 2019, Chinese state television CCTV banned the broadcast of two pre-season NBA games. This came after the Houston Rockets’ General Manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. The NBA is the most-watched league in China and the ban translated into a loss of revenue for the league.
At the same time, the viewership of the game declined rapidly in the US. That was attributed to many of the league’s stars suffering from injuries and sitting out of games. Despite these negative occurrences, the league’s value has been on an upward trajectory since 2018.
So, what are NBA teams worth? These 10 teams have a combined net worth of more than $33 billion. Here is the latest ranking of the richest clubs in the league:
The richest NBA teams of 2020
These clubs make money from hosting games at their state of the art arenas. They also have sponsorship deals with big brands and record-high sales for their merchandise.
10. Toronto Raptors - $2.1 billion
The Toronto Raptors are the 10th richest NBA franchise having recorded huge profits from the 12 playoff games they hosted in the 2019-2020 season. The club won its first NBA title in 2019 so it is not surprising that their value has grown by 25% in the past year.
Another revenue boost for the Raptors came from the signing of a new naming right sponsor – Scotiabank. The club entered this $640 million contract during the 2018-2019 season, changing the name of their home arena to Scotiabank Arena. With sponsors like Coca Cola, Ford, LG, Mastercard Google, and Air Canada also on board, the Raptor’s net worth keeps improving.
By getting to the Finals, the Raptors gave their merchandise and tickets a sales boost. All the media attention was focused on them. The club also benefitted from advertising and product placement deals.
9. Dallas Mavericks - $2.4 billion
Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks in 2000 for $280 million because he is passionate about the sport. To him, buying the team was less of an investment decision and more of a fulfillment of his dream as a Mavericks fan. He goes all out to fund the team regardless of wins, losses and revenue streams.
Cuban is worth $4.3 billion due to his investments in mission-driven companies such as Luminaid and Mahmee. His pioneer investment was the Broadcast.com video portal which he sold to Yahoo in 1999.
The Mavericks have a great fan base that attends all games regardless of performance. Despite not winning a single playoff series since 2011, Maverick fans have attended all games and sold out 800 consecutive games at the American Airlines Arena. Their loyalty has placed the Mavericks among the wealthiest NBA teams.
The gate revenue is a huge boost for this club. In addition, they make a fair amount from Merchandise sales and sponsorships. Some of their most notable financiers are Constellation Brands Inc, Pizza Hut, Walmart, Lexus, Coca Cola, and Dr. Pepper.
8. Houston Rockets - $2.475 billion
The Rockets recently took a big hit financially after the team’s General Manager voiced his support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The team, which was purchased by Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion in 2017, has lost many sponsors and endorsements from Chinese corporations since the incident.
The Rockets had a significant number of Chinese sponsors whose interested was sparked by the drafting of Yao Ming in 2002. Yao Ming was one of the team’s star players and he made eight All-Star teams in Houston. He is one of the reasons why the NBA developed significant popularity in China.
Although Daryl Morey deleted the tweet, the backlash was inevitable. The Chinese Basketball Association, sportswear brand Li-Ning, and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank all suspended their cooperation with the team. The state channel responsible for streaming NBA games in the country, CCTV, immediately quit broadcasting Rockets matches.
The club still has partnerships with Toyota, Adidas, AT&T, Rokit, NGR Energy Inc, and Budweiser among others. Combined with its gate revenue for games and local TV broadcasts, it may have enough income to survive the backlash of the controversial tweet. It remains to be seen whether this NBA team net worth will take a hit.
7. Brooklyn Nets - $2.5 billion
Joseph Tsai bought the Nets in 2019 for $3.3 billion. This price was considered too high considering that the team has been struggling to have consistent revenue streams. Of the $3.3 billion, $1 billion was to pay for the operating license of the Barclays Center.
Part of the reason why the Clippers have been draining revenue is the residence of the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center. The Hockey team not only fell short of their projected ticket sales but also cost the Nets $55 million. Their lease expires soon, which will result in an improvement of the club’s financial position.
With sponsorship deals from corporates like American Express, Barclays, Geico, Honda, JetBlue Airways and Qatar Airways, the Nets have been able to keep the team afloat with consistent financing.
The Nets’ owner, Joseph Tsai, is a billionaire in his own right. According to Forbes, he is worth $10.9 billion. He is the co-founder of the Alibaba Group and currently serves as its vice-chairman.
6. Los Angeles Clippers - $2.6 billion
Since moving to LA in 1984, the Clippers have been playing second fiddle to the LA Lakers in terms of popularity. However, their recent signing of MVPs Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has boosted the club’s image. The back to back wins at the playoff in the 2019-2020 season has further improved their matches attendance.
Being in a populous city like L.A means the Clippers have a higher chance of selling out their game tickets. They are also able to attract big endorsements from popular corporations. Some of their sponsors are Lexus, KIA, American Airlines, Carmax, ARCO and Statefarm.
Who is the richest owner in the NBA? It is Steve Ballmer and he is worth $52.3 billion. He was Microsoft CEO until 2014 when he retired and bought the Clippers. His wealth comes from his shares in the company as well as a $59 million investment in a software company called Social Solutions, among other investments.
Ballmer bought the club for $2 billion in 2014. This broke the previous record that had been set when the Milwaukee Bucks was bought for $550 million. While many thought this figure too high, Ballmer is said to have made the decision based on his love for the sport.
The Clippers do not have a strong viewership on TV. Despite playing so well, they often lose out popularity-wise to the Lakers who have a larger fan base. The two teams share the Staples Center which has an 18,997 person capacity.
At the moment, Ballmer is pushing for the construction of a state-of-the-art arena complex in Inglewood by 2024. This arena will be home to the Clippers, boasting an 18,500 person capacity, a new practice facility, and several corporate offices. The billionaire intends to make the arena the number one basketball venue in the world.
5. Boston Celtics - $3.1 billion
The Boston Celtics are currently ranked 3rd among all the clubs in the league performance-wise. They have had a good season and fans often appreciate this by turning out in large numbers for each game. This translates into some serious gate revenue for the team.
Being ranked the 5th most expensive NBA team means the Boltons have dropped in rank in comparison to the 2019 list. However, the team’s value has grown by 11%. This growth is attributable to the renovation of the club’s TD Garden stadium.
The renovation of TD Garden cost $100 million and added 500 seats to it. Due to their loyal fan base, the Bolton’s quickly sold out these seats for every consecutive game. Their MVP, Kemba Walker, is partly behind the success on the court.
Part of their revenue comes from corporate sponsorship deals. Boston Scientific, General Electric, Comcast, Ticketmaster, JetBlue Airways, and New Balance are among their most notable sponsors.
In 2011, the Celtics extended their TV contract with CSN New England for 20 more years. The contract was initially worth $36 million and was increased by $20 million upon the extension. In addition to this, the team got a 20% stake in the broadcasting network.
4. Chicago Bulls – $3.2 billion
The Bulls had a tough time in the 2019 season; they lost 70% of their games and had some of the worst plays in the league. As a result of this poor performance, the club’s broadcast ratings fell tremendously.
However, they are still worth a decent sum. One of their most notable revenue streams is their latest TV deal. For $50 million, the club’s matches will be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago for the entire 2019-2020 season.
The man behind this lucrative contract is Jerry Reindsorf. He is the Bull’s owner who also has a 50% stake in the broadcaster. He has made a fortune in sports by buying various teams in Chicago and watching their value grow over their years. According to Forbes, Reinsdorf is worth $1.5 billion.
The club is sponsored by American Express, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Lexus, KIA, United Airlines, Calamos Investments among other corporates. Its home games are played at the United Center which, like most stadia in this list, was built in the 90s. The center may not be as big an attraction as the MGM, but it is often filled to capacity with loyal fans.
3. Golden State Warriors - $4.3 billion
Since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the Warriors for $450 million in 2010, the club’s finances have been on an upward trajectory. The latest boost to their portfolio is the new $2 billion Chase Arena that was opened in September 2019.
Before it opened, investors had already given $2 billion in contractually obligated income. The 32 courtside lounges each have an annual fee of between $1.3 million to $2.25 million. The 44 club level suites go for $1 million each. Both sold out before the first match in the new stadium.
A seat in this arena costs $35,000. Coupled with an 18,000 person capacity, the home of the Warriors is one of their biggest revenue streams. In addition to this, the club has 10-year partnerships with notable brands such as United Airlines, Pepsi and Accenture. Their jersey is sponsored by Rakuten.
The Golden State Warriors earn more money in gate revenue than any other club in the league. According to ESPN, the club netted $3.4 million in gate revenue for each home match played in 2019. This amount is more than that made by all the other NBA richest teams in this list.
When it comes to TV deals, the Warriors are not too badly off either. Their 2015 partnership with CSN Bay Area earned them $16 million more than their previous contracts
2. Los Angeles Lakers - $4.4 billion
The Lakers are not only second in the richest NBA teams list but also among the teams with decent scores in the latest season. The club has two very popular players – LeBron James and Anthony Davis who are credited with being behind the team’s success on the court.
Although these players do not come cheap, the club still manages to rake in a fair amount of money from their arena and TV contracts and sponsorship deals.
In 2011, Lakers and Time Warner cable entered a $4 billion partnership that would last for 20 years. In 2013, the team received $122 million for one season, which was three times more than what the entire league earned from its television partner.
Time Warner has two regional sports channels, one in English and the other in Spanish. This means that all Lakers games are televised via Spectrum Sports. To date, the Lakers are ranked as having one of the richest local TV deals.
Notable sponsors who inject finances into the club are WISH (jersey sponsors), Adidas, Automobile Club, American Express, Beats By Dre, Budweiser, Toyota, Canon, Cincoror Tequila, Comerica Bank, East West Bank, MGM Resorts, and Nike.
The club has enjoyed sponsorship from Delta Airlines since 2011. Their partnership allows fans to trade in-game tickets for flight vouchers. Delta donates the game tickets it receives to non-profit organizations in LA.
Part of this club’s revenue comes from ticket and merchandise sales. The ”LeBron effect” has caused a 400% surge in ticket sales for the Lakers.
His merchandise sales are also increasing with eBay selling 12,000 of his jerseys in the first three months after he signed up on the team. His signature Nike LeBron 15 shoe led in eBay sneaker sales until late in the 2018 season.
The club’s owners are Jeanie Buss, Philip Anschutz, Edward P. Roski, and Patrick Soon-Shiong (minority). Among these owners, Philip Anschutz is the richest with a net worth of $11.4 billion.
1. New York Knicks - $4.6 billion
Those wondering which NBA team has the most money will be surprised to learn that the New York Knicks has held the number one spot for 3 consecutive years. The club has not had a great run on the court for a long time. It has more losses than wins to its names.
In 46 years, the Knicks have only made it to the Finals twice. Their most recent appearance was 20 years ago. Since then, they have struggled to reach play-offs.
Surprisingly, the New York Knicks is currently the richest basketball team with a 12% increase in their value since the last ranking. This is partly due to their home arena, the Madison Square Garden, which is considered the “Mecca” of basketball. This arena has an impressive revenue-producing ability.
New York is one of the world’s largest cities with a population of more than 8 million. This translates into high attendance for the Knicks’ games. Despite their poor performance, game tickets are always sold out. Since its refurbishment for $1 billion, the Garden has become a bucket list item for visitors to the city.
This club also makes an impressive amount of money off TV contracts. They signed a local TV deal with the MSG network worth $37 million. MSG ranks among one of the most viewed networks in homes across the U.S and this deal has given the Knicks a lot of exposure.
Some of the club’s notable sponsors are Delta Air Lines, Draft Kings, KIA motors, Lexus, PepsiCo, Squarespace, JP Morgan Chase, and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The Knicks’ jersey is sponsored by Squarespace.
Each of the richest NBA teams has a unique story. Some like the Knicks rely on their popularity to stay at the top of the list, while others like the Boston Celtics have earned their spot because of their skill on the court. It remains to be seen what the next season holds for the finances of these 10 teams.