Basketball is amongst the most popular sports that are watched by millions of people all over the world. In the United States, it is one of the most-watched sports along with Major League Baseball and the National Football League with over 300 million people tuning in or going to the stadium to watch the games. With its increasing popularity and growth in recent years, let’s take a look at some of the richest NBA teams.
#10 Toronto Raptors
Value – US$2.15 billion
Owner – Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
The Toronto Raptors compete in the NBA as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. Just like most expansion teams the Raptors struggled in their early years, but a good draft in the 1998 season enabled them to build a solid squad of players as they reached the NBA playoffs in 2000, 2001 and 2002. They tasted their first success in 2007 by winning the Division title before repeating this feat six more times between 2014 and 2020. In the 2019 season, the Raptors won their first-ever Conference finals by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 to reach the NBA Finals for the first time, but on their path to glory were the two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors, who featured multiple All-Stars and were the favourites to win. But the Raptors defied all odds and secured the 7-game playoffs 4-2 to become the first non-American team to win any of the major American championships since the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993.
Value – US$2.45 billion
Owner – Mark Cuban
The Dallas Mavericks compete in the NBA as a member of the Western Conference Southwest Division. After its introduction into the NBA championships in the 1980-81 season, the Mavericks were a playoff team throughout the ’80s. Their decline came during the ’90s, as the franchise entered a period of rebuilding that lasted more than a decade. The acquisition of Dirk Nowitzki in the 1998 season saw the Mavericks fortune take a dramatic turn as he became the linchpin of the most successful era for the franchise, leading them to their first NBA Championship in 2011. But during the twilight years of Nowitzki’s career, the Mavericks entered another rebuilding phase as the team failed to make it into the playoffs for three consecutive seasons from 2017 to 2019, after which the legendary Dirk Nowitzki officially retired. Since their inaugural season in 1980-81, the Mavericks have won four division titles, two conference titles, and one NBA championship.
Value – US$2.5 billion
Owner – Tilman Fertitta
The Houston Rockets were founded in 1967 by Robert Breitbard, who paid an entry fee of US$1.75 million to join the NBA as an expansion team for the 1967-68 season. Before the start of the 1971-72 season, Texas Sports Investment bought the franchise for US$5.6 million and moved it to Houston. Thus, it became the first NBA franchise from Texas and the nickname ‘Rockets’ took on even greater significance given Houston’s association with the space industry. The ’90s was the golden era for the Houston Rockets as they won three Division titles, two conference titles, and two NBA Championships (1994 and 1995). After the ageing trio of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, and Charles Barkley left the franchise by the end of 2001, the Rockets in the early 2000s led by superstars Tracy McGrady and Yao Min kept the respectability of the normal season, but the team massively underperformed in the playoffs as the star duo missed crucial parts of the season due to injuries. After Min’s early retirement in 2011, the Rockets entered a period of building and completely dismantled their squad to start anew. Since 2012, the Rockets have won four Division titles, most importantly three consecutively from 2018 to 2020.
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Value – US$2.65 billion
Owner – Joseph Tsai
The club was founded in 1967 as a charter franchise of the NBA’s rival league, the American Basketball Association (ABA). They played with the name New Jersey Americans in their first season, before relocating to Long Island, New York in 1968 where they changed their name to New York Jets. In this time frame, the Jets won two ABA championships in 1974 and 1976. In 1976, the ABA was merged with the NBA and the Jets joined the NBA as a result. In 1977, they returned to New Jersey and played with the name New Jersey Jets from 1977 to 2012. The Jets got to the finals of the NBA Championship for two consecutive seasons, in 2002 and 2003, but lost the finals on either occasion. In 2012, they moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and took up the name Brooklyn Nets. Since switching to Brooklyn, the team has qualified for the playoffs on five different occasions, reaching as far as the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2014.
Value – US$2.75 billion
Owner – Steve Ballmer
The Clippers were founded as an expansion team called the “Buffalo Braves” in 1970. During the first eight seasons in Buffalo, they made it into the playoffs on five occasions, but due to conflicts over the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium and its sale the team were relocated to San Diego in 1978. They were subsequently rebranded as San Diego Clippers, but during their six years on the San Diego Bay the team saw little success on the court, failing to reach the playoffs every season. After a legal battle between then-owner Donald Sterling and the NBA, the Clippers relocated to Los Angeles in 1984. During the first 27 seasons after their move to LA, the Clippers reached the post-season playoffs on only four occasions, getting as far as the Conference Semifinals. Since the end of 2010, the fortunes of the franchise have improved drastically. With smart buys in the draft, the team qualified for the playoffs in five consecutive seasons between 2011 and 2017, also winning the Division titles in 2013 and 2014, which was a first for them. Despite all the recent improvements, the Clippers are the oldest franchise to have never played in the NBA Finals.
Value – US$3.2 billion
Owner – Wycliffe Grousbeck, Irving Grousbeck, Robert Epstein, Stephen Pagliuca.
The Boston Celtics compete in the NBA as a member of the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. Founded in 1946 as one of the league’s original eight teams, the Celtics are considered as one of the most successful teams in NBA history with 17 NBA championships, tied with the Los Angeles Lakers. Due to this, the Boston Celtics have a notable rivalry with the LA Lakers which was heavily highlighted in the ’60s and the ’80s. The Celtics’ rise to dominance began in the late ’50s when coach Red Auerbach recruited Bill Russell and superstar Bob Cousy to win their first NBA championship in 1957. After that, with a talented pool of support cast like K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Satch Saunders and Bill Sharman, the franchise had the greatest period in their history, winning eight consecutive NBA championships in the ’60s. After Russell’s retirement in 1969, the Celtics entered a period of rebuilding in the ’70s. The team rose again in the ’80s winning the 1981, 1984 and 1986 championship. After winning 16 of their 17 Championships in the 20th century, the Boston Celtics have struggled, winning their only NBA championship of the 21st century in 2008 before losing their next final to the LA Lakers in 2010.
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Value – US$3.3 billion
Owner – Jerry Reinsdorf
In 1966, the Chicago Bulls became an official member of the NBA. During their first season in 1966-67, the Bulls posted a 33-48 record, which is the best by an expansion team in NBA history. That year they also reached the playoffs, which made them the only team to ever reach the playoffs in their inaugural season. The Bulls saw their greatest success during the ’90s when they won six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998. Most importantly, all of those six championship victories were down to the magic trio of Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson. The Bulls are the only franchise in NBA history to win multiple championships without losing a single Finals series. In their more than 50 years of history, they have won 9 Division titles, six conference titles and six NBA championships.
Value – US$4.6 billion
Owner – Jerry Buss Family Trusts, Philip Anschutz
Arguably one of the most successful, if not the most successful, franchises in NBA history. The franchise began in 1947 with the purchase of Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League (NBL). The new team began playing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, calling themselves the Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers won the 1948 NBL championship before joining the rival league Basketball Association of America, where they won five of the six championships they participated in. After financially struggling through the ’50s, they relocated to Los Angeles before the start of the 1960-61 season. During the ’60s, the Lakers made it to the NBA Finals on six different occasions but lost every time to the Boston Celtics. They finally won their sixth NBA final in 1972 – their first in Los Angeles – but struggled for performance in the coming seasons. The most important change in the Lakers’ history came when Jerry Buss bought the franchise in 1979, signalling the start of their golden generation. Since Buss took over, the Lakers have gone on to win 11 NBA championships, their recent win coming in the 2020 finals. They have also gone on to win a staggering 17 Conference titles and 19 Division titles in the last 40 years.
Value – US$4.7 billion
Owner – Joe Lacob, Peter Gruber
The Golden State Warriors, part of the Western Conference Pacific Division, were founded in 1946 in Philadelphia. The Warriors won the first-ever Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1947 and again won it in the year 1956. After their two championship wins they moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1962 and took the city’s name, before again changing the location to Golden State in 1971. In this period of relocation and finding an identity, the Warriors had very little to show in terms of performances on the court. Their next success came in the 1975 season, led by star players Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes, who powered them to their third championship, which to date is the biggest upset in NBA history. After that, till the 2010s the team struggled to pose a genuine title-challenging threat, but made the playoffs consistently by the turn of the century. The team returned to championship glory in 2015, led by stars like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. They won two more championships in 2017 and 2018 with the help of Kevin Durant.
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Value – US$5 billion
Owner – Madison Square Garden Sports
A member of the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division, the Knicks were founded in 1946 by Ned Irish. Originally a founding member of the BAA, which later merged with rival league NBL in 1949, the Knicks were successful during their early seasons, making the playoffs almost every other year. Between 1950 and 1952, the Knicks made it into consecutive NBA Finals but failed to win any of them which resulted in their coach resigning in 1956 and the team began to falter in the years to come. It was not until the late ’60s when Red Holzman took charge of the Knicks as head coach and guided them to two NBA Championships in 1973 and 1975. After a relatively quiet ’80s in which they made six playoffs appearances, the Knicks failed to reach any of the Finals. Since the ’90s, they have won only three Division finals and two Conference titles. Despite their huge financial gains throughout the years, their business prowess hasn’t translated to success on the court. The US$1bn renovation of the Madison Square Garden in 2013 has enabled the franchise to profit from it to date and with sponsorship revenue from the likes of Chase Bridges and their connection with the Tao Group the valuation of the franchise has increased quite substantially in recent years.