Most valuable NBA franchises heading into 2022-23 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The National Basketball Association is one of the most profitable sports leagues in the United States. With athletes receiving countless lucrative deals and fans filing into sold-out arenas, the NBA continues to grow in the financial space.
Even a worldwide pandemic, which saw NBA arenas closed around the country, couldn't slow down the ever-growing organization that is the NBA. Every franchise in the league is worth at least $1 billion and the top three franchises are worth over $5 billion, and that figure continues to rise each year.
With the news of Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver beginning the process to sell both teams, the Suns' current franchise value is now the topic of conversation. As of the 2020-21 season, the Suns were valued at $1.92 billion.
Here's a look at what each NBA franchise is worth from least to greatest, according to Sportico's total valuations up to December 2021:
30. New Orleans Pelicans - $1.51 billion
The Pelicans are ranked as the lowest valued franchise in the league at $1.51 billion despite drafting Zion Williamson as the overall No. 1 pick at the 2019 NBA Draft. Signings like Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum still haven’t been enough to push the Pelicans franchise out of the last spot.
29. Memphis Grizzlies - $1.53 billion
The Grizzlies are becoming one of the best-developed franchises in the league at the hands of Ja Morant, but they still hold the second-lowest spot for the lowest valued franchise in the league.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves - $1.57 billion
The $1.5 billion sale of the Timberwolves to entrepreneur and investor Marc Lore and retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez was approved by the NBA just a few months ago, however the team still falls into the bottom five least valued teams in the league, despite the undeniable talent of Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards.
27. Charlotte Hornets - $1.6 billion
The Hornets franchise is owned by the GOAT, but that doesn’t make them the greatest valued franchise in the league. Michael Jordan bought the Hornets (then known as the Bobcats) in 2010 for around $275 million, and they're currently valued at $1.6 billion, making them the fourth-lowest NBA team by value. They have not appeared in the NBA playoffs since 2016 and have never won an NBA title.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder - $1.67 billion
The Thunder franchise is worth $1.67 billion, which puts them 26th in the league. That’s about 5 times more than the $350 million Clay Bennett paid to purchase the franchise in 2006, when it was the Seattle SuperSonics, along with the WNBA Seattle Storm. While the team has made 10 playoff appearances in the last 13 seasons, they still rank among the lowest valued franchises.
25. Orlando Magic - $1.69 billion
While Orlando (particularly Walt Disney World) is widely considered the happiest place on Earth, it doesn’t translate to the NBA team that falls at the No. 25 spot amongst the lowest-valued teams in the league. The team has only made the playoffs twice in the past 10 years and was handed the gentleman's sweep in both appearances. They have also never won an NBA title.
24. Detroit Pistons - $1.74 billion
The Pistons franchise is among the lowest-valued franchises in the league despite winning three NBA championships (1989, 1990, 2004) and making 41 playoff appearances since their NBA inception - although they were swept in the last three times they made the playoffs.
23. Cleveland Cavaliers - $1.75 billion
The Cavaliers have quite the Cinderella story, from a team that didn’t have a title to their name to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving making history happen in the championship-winning run of 2016. Cleveland has come a long way, but the glory days may be behind them. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since James’ exit in 2018.
22. Utah Jazz - $1.78 billion
Franchise majority owner Ryan Smith bought 80% of the Jazz for $1.66 billion from the Miller family in December 2020 and since then, the team’s value has risen. The Jazz were able to make six-straight playoff appearances and are still on the hunt for the team’s first NBA title.
21. Indiana Pacers - $1.8 billion
The Pacers are many years removed from the glorious Reggie Miller days and a ways off from a successful playoff run. The Pacers missed the playoffs in the last two years and were swept in the first round in 2019 and 2020. Hopefully the value of the team will take a more positive ride than the team’s on-court success.
20. Atlanta Hawks - $1.83 billion
The Hawks were one of the original franchises of the NBA when the league was established in 1949. Since then, the team was able to win one title in 1958 but hasn’t had much luck since. Trae Young and the young Hawks core have become contenders, causing the franchise’s value to rise.
19. Denver Nuggets - $1.87 billion
In 2000, Stan Kroenke became full owner of both the Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, purchasing the teams for $450 million. Since then, the Nuggets have been able to make four straight playoff appearances, despite not being able to win an NBA title.
18. Phoenix Suns - $1.92 billion
The Suns will be looking for a buyer with current owner Robert Sarver beginning the process of selling the team. Sarver bought the Suns in 2004 for $401 million and now the franchise is now worth almost $2 billion. While the team has never won an NBA title, they came disappointingly close in 2021 after a fall to the Milwaukee Bucks.
17. Milwaukee Bucks - $1.98 billion
The Bucks hold the No. 17 spot for the highest valued franchises in the league, which is a stunning increase in value since the team was purchased for $450 million in 2014. The team, which holds two NBA champions (1971, 2021) continues to increase in value each year and is close to valuing over $2 billion.
16. San Antonio Spurs - $2.05 billion
The Spurs are among some of the most successful teams on this list with five NBA titles in six finals appearances. Peter Holt of the Holt Family purchased the San Antonio Spurs in 1993 for $76 million, since then the team has gone on to increase in value every year.
15. Sacramento Kings - $2.06 billion
The Kings haven’t appeared in the NBA playoffs since the 2005-06 postseason, but that hasn’t stopped the franchise from handling their business off the court. They hold the No. 15 spot for the most valued franchises in the league.
14. Portland Trail Blazers - $2.07 billion
The Trail Blazers have come a long way since entering the league as an expansion team in 1970. Since then, they have one NBA title (1977) under their belt and 36 postseason appearances.
13. Washington Wizards - $2.15 billion
Just months after Bradley Beal, one of the league’s top free agents, resigned with the Wizards with a whopping five-year maximum contract worth $251 million, the Wizards continue to prove why they are a formidable franchise in this league. While the team has only one title (1978) to its name, they hold the No. 13 spot in the league's most valued franchises.
12. Miami Heat - $2.49 billion
Everyone loves the Miami sun, so of course the blazing hot south beach team ranks well as the 12th most valued franchise in the league. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and others have done their fair share in bringing the talent and the finances to a team that Micky Arison bought for $33 million back in 1988.
11. Philadelphia 76ers - $2.67 billion
Philadelphia has some of the proudest fans in the world, which makes sense why the 76ers value continues to rise. While the team hasn’t won a championship since 1983, players like Joel Embiid and the newly added James Harden continue to put fans in Wells Fargo Center.
10. Dallas Mavericks - $2.72 billion
The Mavericks are 11 years removed from the team's last, and only championship. But that didn’t stop them from rounding out the top 10 as the league's 10th most valued franchise. The team has continued to prove itself as a financial success 22 years after majority owner Mark Cuban purchased the team for $285 million.
9. Toronto Raptors - $2.74 billion
The Raptors are worth a reported $2.74 billion making them the country’s most valued sports franchise. The team’s 2019 championship run definitely gave the team the edge in the rising value, seeing their value grow more than 400% since 2012 when the team's estimated worth was $400 million.
8. Houston Rockets - $2.79 billion
The Rockets hold the No. 8 spot in the franchise valuations just five years after owner Tilman Fertitta purchased the team for $2.2 billion in 2017, which was a record sale price for an NBA team. Tilman surely will be making a return on his investment as the team’s value continues to rise each year.
7. Los Angeles Clippers - $3.16 billion
The Clippers have been on quite the journey since joining the NBA as the Buffalo Braves in 1970. Since then, the younger sibling in L.A. has seen a large increase of value over the years. It was just a few months ago that current owner Steve Ballmer purchased the Clippers for $2 billion. Even though the team doesn’t have a championship to its name, they certainly are building their own identity. Starting with the “Intuit Dome” where the Clippers look to begin playing in for the 2024-25 season.
6. Boston Celtics - $3.44 billion
The Celtics are tied with the Lakers with the most NBA titles in the league, but they are still ranked as the 6th highest valued franchise in the league. The Celtics have seen many hall of famers play in TD Garden and have raised many trophies since their first title in 1957. It is without question that the Celtics are one of the most storied franchises of all time.
5. Chicago Bulls - $3.53 billion
The Bulls have come a very long way from the Michael Jordan era, but the team that holds six NBA titles sits comfortably in the fifth spot of the highest valued franchise in the league. The signings of names like DeMar Derozan and Lonzo Ball will only continue to brighten the team's spot in the national spotlight.
4. Brooklyn Nets - $3.61 billion
Joe Tsai bought the Nets for around $2.3 billion in 2017 and since then the Brooklyn team’s value jumped to over $1 billion more. With additions such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving bringing more starpower to the team, the franchise continues to rise in fame and power despite being swept from the playoffs last season.
3. Los Angeles Lakers - $5.63 billion
If this list ranked the NBA teams with the most championships then the Lakers would be in the No.1 spot, however the big brother in L.A. takes the third spot for being the highest valued franchise in the league. With franchise players such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, it only makes sense for the most popular franchise to make it into the top three.
2. Golden State Warriors - $6.03 billion
The Warriors, who are the reigning NBA champions, have seen their franchise’s value rise from $450 million to over $6 billion in just 12 years. That is due to the Dubs lifting the Larry O’Brien four times and the six Finals appearances the team has made in the last eight seasons.
1. New York Knicks - $6.12 billion
The New York Knicks remain in the top spot of the most valuable franchises in the NBA. Despite not winning an NBA championship in almost 50 years, the team remains extremely lucrative. Playing in Madison Square Garden affords the team a bright spot in the business world in New York, which is the largest media market in the U.S.