Winning basketball games doesn’t necessarily lead to better value for the team – just ask the New York Knicks.
The last championship they won was in 1973 and the last conference title was in 1999. This year, they’re 17-37 and they haven’t had a winning regular season record since the 2012-13 season when they finished second in the Eastern Conference. However, if you ask Forbes, the team is worth a considerable amount of money. As a matter a fact, it’s worth more than any other team in the league.
Forbes puts the Knicks in first place as the most valuable franchise with a valuation of $4.6 billion. This is the fifth year in a row that it has claimed the top spot, above the LA Lakers at $4.4 billion, the Golden State Warriors at $4.3 billion and the Chicago Bulls at $3.2 billion. Forbes points out that the average team value sits at $2.12 billion, representing an increase of around 476% over the past ten years. For a little perspective, the average inflation increase over the same period has been just 1.8%.
According to Forbes senior editor Kurt Badenhausen, “Despite the noise around lower TV ratings and business problems in China, NBA franchise values continue to soar and are up 14%, compared to an 11% increase for NFL teams and 8% in Major League Baseball.”
Part of the reason for the increase in value comes from more lucrative deals the NBA has signed with broadcasters such as ESPN and Turner. A new contract was signed ahead of the 2016-17 season worth $24 billion, with revenue shared across the league’s 30 teams. A new collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 also helped, with players receiving less of a cut of the action. Their percentage dropped from 57% to 51%, allowing more money to stay with the franchises.
The franchises saw a combined $8.8 billion in revenue in the most recent season, a 10% year-on-year increase and a new record. It could have been higher, too, but the Oklahoma City Thunder reported a loss in operating revenue after taking a $23-million hit when it was forced to pay a $61-million luxury tax bill on its payroll.
Other sports leagues should take note as, over the last ten years, the NFL has only seen growth of 179%, MLB, 262% (although that could change post-cheating scandal) and NHL, 192%. However, the Dallas Cowboys still rule as the highest-valued sports franchise among them all, claiming a value of $4.8 billion.
The Warriors have seen incredible improvement over the last decade. The team was worth about $140 million in 1999, seventh-lowest in the league, and has improved to third place. The LA Clippers also saw a huge jump, going from dead last in 1999 at $103 million to sixth place on the new Forbes list with $2.6 billion.
Badenhausen sees external forces at work to increase team values, as well. He asserts, “With the S&P 500 up 80% over the past five years, NBA teams remain a diversification option for those looking to pare down their stock holdings. The high stock market valuations have helped boost the prices for teams.
Buying a team can also be a great tax break because tax law typically requires the amount of a purchase price of a business allocated to intangibles (often the vast majority with sports team acquisitions) to be amortized over 15 years. Such deductions can offset other taxable income.”
The NFL is still the leader when it comes to viewership, but the NBA is catching up and these valuations could increase even more in the near future. The NFL banks 41 of the 50 most-watched sports programs in the US, but streaming viewership, favored by the younger demographic, is increasing faster for NBA games than for football. This season alone, it has increased 30%.