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The NBA’s Most Valuable Teams.............

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By MIKE OZANIAN
(FORBES)

The average NBA team is now worth $369 million, 1% more than last year. But several of the league’s 30 teams have not fully recovered from the recession, and as a result values are still 2.6% below the $379 million peak average they hit two years ago.

No player in the 64-year history of the National Basketball Association has come close to having the immediate and profound impact that LeBron James had when he bolted the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat this summer. The King’s move accounted for both the biggest gain and drop in team values: the Heat’s worth increased 17%, to $425 million (seventh among the NBA’s 30 teams), and the Cavaliers plummeted 26%, to $355 million (15th).

The Heat sold out their season ticket inventory for the 2010-11 campaign after four straight years of attendance declines. Ticket prices are going up next year and ratings for Heat games on Sun Sports, the Fox-owned regional sports network, have doubled this season. Meanwhile, after winning more than 60 games each of the past two seasons, the Cavs won only eight of their first 45 games this year and owner Dan Gilbert recently announced that prices for Cavs games would be lowered next season.

The New York Knicks replace the Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA’s most valuable team, worth $655 million, up 12% from last year. Signing Amar’e Stoudemire has been a big help both on the court and with sponsors. The Knicks sold out their full-season ticket inventory for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The Knicks’ parent company, Madison Square Garden, Inc., signed a sponsorship deal with JPMorgan Chase in September that’s worth at least $30 million a year over 10 years.

Full List: The NBA’s Most Valuable Team

Complete Coverage: The Business Of The NBA

Our valuations sometimes differ from the amount teams have recently sold for. Our estimations are based on the team’s current economics (unless ground has been broken for a new building) and do not include the value of real estate. For example, we value the Warriors, who negotiated a more lucrative cable deal soon after Peter Guber and Joe Lacob bought the team, at $363 million. One reason the new owners paid $450 million is their lease at the antiquated Oracle Arena expires in 2017 and the building is likely to be renovated, with the team getting a more lucrative lease or a new building entirely.

In June, Ted Leonsis purchased the 56% of the Washington Wizards and Verizon Center that he did not already own, plus the Baltimore-Washington D.C. Ticketmaster franchise, in a deal that put a value on the whole enterprise of $551 million. We value the Wizards at $322 million because we only include the revenue the team gets from the Verizon Center, not the value of the real estate itself.

The bad economy and a few suspect markets (Minnesota, Sacramento, Indiana among others) drained profitability during the 2009-10 season due to lower ticket receipts. Operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) fell to an average of $6.1 million, 22% lower than the previous season and the lowest figure since the 2002-03 season. Worse, 17 teams lost money, the most since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. Several franchises like the Detroit Pistons and the New Orleans Hornets are on the market, but can’t find buyers at the right price.

However, if NBA commissioner David Stern gets his way, an imbecile would be able to make money running a team. Stern wants to lop $750 million off of player costs, lowering the portion of basketball-related revenue that goes to players from 57% to around 40%. If Stern succeeds, even teams like the Hornets, who were thought to be headed for bankruptcy before the NBA rescued the franchise, would immediately rise at least 30% in value because potential buyers would know they don’t run the risk of writing checks to cover operating losses.




NEW YORK -- The New York Knicks have overtaken the Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA's most valuable franchise, and 17 of the 30 teams are estimated to have lost money last season, according to Forbes.

The Knicks' value rose 12 percent from $586 million to $655 million, the magazine said Wednesday in its annual evaluation. The rise was attributed to increased ticket sales and sponsorships at Madison Square Garden.

The Lakers went up 6 percent from $607 million to $643 million.

Chicago was third at $511 million, followed by Boston ($452 million), Houston ($443 million) and Dallas ($438 million).

After signing LeBron James, the Miami Heat had the biggest percentage rise, a 17 percent increase to $425 million, good for seventh place. Following the loss of James, Cleveland dropped a league-high 26 percent to $355 million.

The average value of a franchise increased 1 percent to $369 million, down from $379 million two years ago.

Forbes estimated teams averaged $6.1 million in operating income. It said the total of teams that lost money is the most since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.

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