Basketball’s Big Bounce

NBA franchise values are climbing faster than both NFL and MLB teams.

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at


FORBES has released its annual NBA team valuations for 2020, and the New Orleans Pelicans rank 29 of 30 teams.

This doesn’t sound great, but the news is actually good for the Pelicans, and for NBA teams in general. The financial website valued the Pelicans at $1.35 billion, an 11% increase year over year, and with superstar Zion Williamson and an improved roster around him, look for the franchise’s value to climb in coming years.

NBA team values have increased sixfold over the past decade, according to Forbes, and for the first time in history, the average NBA team is worth $2.12 billion, up 14% over last year. No NBA franchise was valued at $1 billion in 2011. The league’s average revenue per team last season was $292 billion, up 10%, and operating income set a record at $70 million per team.

Although they are currently in their seventh consecutive losing season, the New York Knicks are the NBA’s top valued team for the fifth consecutive year. At $4.6 billion, the team saw a 15% value increase from last year’s $4 billion estimation. The Los Angeles Lakers ranked second in the NBA with a value of $4.4 billion, up 19%, and are followed by the Golden State Warriors ($4.3 billion, up 23%), Chicago Bulls ($3.2 billion, up 10%), and Boston Celtics ($3.1 billion, up 11%).

The Dallas Cowboys, worth an estimated $5.5 billion, are the only North American sports franchise worth more than the Knicks. The New York Yankees, valued at $4.6 billion, is the only other team ahead of the Lakers and the Warriors.

“Despite the noise around lower TV ratings and business problems in China, NBA fran- chise values continue to soar and are up 14%, compared to an 11% increase for NFL teams and 8% in Major League Baseball,” said Forbes senior editor Kurt Badenhausen.

The NBA’s lowest-valued teams are the Detroit Pistons ($1.45 billion, up 14%), Orlando Magic ($1.43 billion, up 8%), Minnesota Timberwolves ($1.375 billion, up 9%), New Orleans Pelicans ($1.35 billion, up 11%) and the Memphis 4 Grizzlies ($1.3 billion, up 8%).

Domestically, the NBA is in a nine-year broadcasting deal with ESPN, ABC and Turner Sports through the 2024–25 season that’s worth $24 billion ($2.7 billion/year). It’s the second most expensive media rights deal in the world after the NFL, which gets $1 billion a year from CBS, $1.1 billion from Fox, and $950 million from NBC for the rights to air games.

The NBA’s international appeal has a lot to do with its growth. NBA games are available in 215 countries, and features players from around the globe who help draw worldwide interest.

Although he missed the start of the season, Williamson’s addition to the team has lifted the Pelicans’ profile. According to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard, more Williamson- related products have been sold at sports merchandise website since his NBA debut on Jan. 22 than any other player. “For merchandise and memorabilia sales combined, Williamson has been a top- five-selling NBA player, with a 175% spike in sales month over month,” Woodyard said, citing numbers provided by Fanatics.

Fanatics Authentic Executive Vice President Victor Shaffer spoke about the increase in sales telling ESPN, “We’ve seen incredible demand for both his Duke Blue Devils and New Orleans Pelicans products from fans around the world.”

As Zionmania grows, so too will the Pelicans’ bottom line. The best way to keep interest piqued is to win. If the Pelicans can crack the NBA Western Conference’s top eight teams and qualify for the playoffs, the focus will grow sharper on the player and the team. As they advance up the win-loss ladder, so too will they fly up the rankings of the NBA’s most valuable teams.



Rank 1 : New York Knicks
Current Value: $4.6 B
1-YR Value Change: 15%

Rank 2: Los Angeles Lakers
Current Value: $4.4B
1-YR Value Change: 19%

Rank 3: Golden State Warriors
Current Value: $4.3B
1-YR Value Change: 23%

Rank 4: Chicago Bulls
Current Value: $3.2B
1-YR Value Change: 10%

Rank 5: Boston Celtics
Current Value: $3.1B
1-YR Value Change: 11%

Rank 26: Detroit Pistons
Current Value: $1.45B
1-YR Value Change: 14%

Rank 27: Orlando Magic
Current Value: $1.43B
1-YR Value Change: 8%

Rank 28: Minnesota Timberwolves
Current Value: $1.375B
1-YR Value Change: 9%

Rank 29: New Orleans Pelicans
Current Value: $1.35B
1-YR Value Change: 11%

Rank 30: Memphis Grizzlies
Current Value: $1.3B
1-YR Value Change: 8%