Remember when the NBA owners locked the players out because 22 of the 30 teams were losing money? Oh, yeah, neither do we. And that’s good for the owners of those 30 NBA teams, because ever since the lockout, the evaluated worth of every franchise has skyrocketed, and the league that could boast three billion dollar franchises this time last year has seen that number nearly quadruple, at least according to Forbes. It’s good to be someone who’s already an NBA owner, instead of someone looking to buy in. Just ask Steve Ballmer.
So, as the regular season continues its march towards the playoffs, let’s take a minute to look at all the professional basketball teams that have vaulted over the billion dollar mark between this season and last. Yes, there’s a possibility that the Dallas Mavericks make an appearance.
11. San Antonio Spurs — $1.0B
10. Dallas Mavericks — $1.15B
9. Miami Heat — $1.175B
In one of the strongest arguments for a team’s success having little to do with the value of the franchise (although there’s a reason why the number 11 spot is held down by the Spurs, rather than the Sacramento Kings), each of the teams in the first three slots have been NBA Finals contenders relatively consistently over the last 10 years, and yet they’re still worth significantly less than some of their less successful contemporaries.
8. Houston Rockets — $1.25B
7. Golden State Warriors — $1.3B
6. Brooklyn Nets — $1.5B
It’d be easy to do a complete swap of the first three teams in this article and this batch of teams, particularly if you were looking at how good they had been over the past decade or so. The Rockets have always been sneaky good, laying down the framework for the team you see today (all threes and layups), but the Warriors and the Nets have been largely trapped in futility. That said, Golden State is awesome now, capping their best season in decades with and NBA championship and based in San Francisco, while the Nets have seen their value continue to skyrocket since moving from New Jersey.
5. Los Angeles Clippers — $1.6B
4. Boston Celtics — $1.7B
Reading this, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the Clippers still aren’t worth what Steve Ballmer paid for them in 2014, but that price (roughly $2B) was dictated by the sudden availability, Ballmer’s longstanding desire to own an NBA team — they don’t come up for sale often — and the sudden increase in on-court quality that had followed the team since drafting Blake Griffin. As for the Celtics, well, they’re awesome. The most historic franchise in the NBA, an iconic team that offsets their fairly small market, even if they’re not winning many games right now.
3. Chicago Bulls — $2.0B
2. New York Knicks — $2.5B
1. Los Angeles Lakers — $2.6B
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three teams that were already over the threshold last year are the three teams that are worth the most money this year. If you’re connecting the dots quickly, you’ve already realized that these three teams are the three premiere squads for each of the USA’s largest media markets. You could make the argument for the Clippers being better than the Lakers today (and you’d be right), but they simply don’t have the cultural cache that the purple and gold holds. For the complete Forbes analysis, click here.