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Forbes: 12 NBA Teams Lost Money Last Season

Dec 10, 2009 – 9:25 AM
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Tom Ziller

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Forbes has its annual report on NBA team valuations, revenue and operating income out. The headline might be that in its championship season, the Lakers finally supplanted the Knicks as the league's franchise worth the most, up 4 percent to $607 million. The Knicks' value dropped 4 percent to $586 million after having claimed the top spot for four consecutive seasons, despite terrible on-court performance.

But the real news is likely that 12 NBA teams -- some 40 percent of the league's franchises -- are reported to have lost money last season. The biggest losers happen to be winners: Paul Allen's Blazers are reported to have lost $20 million, and the Mavericks are reported to have lost $17 million. Three other winning teams lost money (Orlando, Atlanta, New Orleans), but the rest of the deficit contingent is made up of the league's worst squads of a year ago (Pacers, Bobcats, Nets, Bucks, Grizzlies, Wolves, Kings).

Of course, if you want to look at the bright side, in that awful, awful economy, 18 of the league's 30 franchises actually made money. Perhaps that's a positive. Forbes doesn't spin it as such, but you imagine the league might do so. (The league and individual teams do not typically disclose revenue, operating income or any financial data.)

The sheer number of teams losing money might worry the league, but the NBA has a whole turned a great profit last year based on the strength of the top flight, big-market squads. The Lakers and Bulls each made more than $50 million in profit, and two others -- the Pistons and Rockets -- surpassed the $30 million mark. Even the lowly Knicks managed to net $21 million.

Of particular interest is that the Thunder, in its first season in Oklahoma City, managed to pull a substantially positive operating income of $12.7 million. The value of Clay Bennett's franchise also rose 3 percent, to $310 million. That was the league's fourth largest value increase. The Blazers, despite losing that $20 million, saw its franchise value jump a remarkable 10 percent to $338 million.
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