Report: Knicks, not Lakers, are NBA’s most valuable franchise

Dolan has owned the Knicks since the 1990s.
Joe Camporeale/Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Apple means big money. The Knicks have consistently been one of the NBA’s two most valuable franchises, along with their West Coast counterpart, the Lakers. Now, owner James Dolan’s team is back on top in the latest reported franchise valuations, in part because of his organization’s new local television contract.

The Knicks are worth not 1, not 2, but $3 billion, according to Forbes. The Lakers, meanwhile, were estimated at $2.7 billion:

The New York Knicks reclaim the top spot from the Los Angeles Lakers after a one-year hiatus, thanks to a new cable deal and the highest premium-seating revenue in the league at almost $90 million. The split of the media and sports assets of Madison Square Garden Company in September precipitated a new media rights deal for the Knicks with the MSG regional sports network. The 20-year pact kicks off this season and is worth $100 million in the first year. We value the Knicks at $3 billion, up 20% and fourth most among U.S. sports franchises behind only the Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion), New England Patriots ($3.2 billion) and New York Yankees ($3.2 billion).

Franchise values are up across the board, no surprise in a league whose organizations have become more and more affluent as it continues to approach the start of a nine-year, $24 billion television deal that kicks in for the start of the 2016-17 season. The average value of an NBA team is $1.25 billion, according to Wednesday’s report, with the median team value just shy of $1 billion.

The full list:

1. Knicks, $3.0 billion

2. Lakers, $2.7 billion

3. Bulls, $2.3 billion

4. Celtics, $2.1 billion

5. Clippers, $2.0 billion

6. Warriors, $1.9 billion

7. Nets, $1.7 billion

8. Rockets, $1.5 billion

9. Mavericks, $1.4 billion

10. Heat, $1.3 billion

11. Spurs, $1.15 billion

12. Cavaliers, $1.1 billion

13. Suns, $1 billion

14. Raptors, $980 million

15. Trail Blazers, $975 million

16. Wizards, $960 million

17. Thunder, $950 million

18. Kings, $925 million

19. Magic, $900 million

20. Jazz, $875 million

21. Nuggets, $855 million

22. Pistons, $850 million

23. Pacers, $840 million

24. Hawks, $825 million

25. Grizzlies, $780 million

26. Hornets, $750 million

27. Timberwolves, $725 million

28. 76ers, $700 million

29. Bucks, $675 million

30. Pelicans, $650 million

In other words, the NBA’s least valuable franchise, the New Orleans Pelicans, is worth roughly 20 percent what the Knicks are worth.

Those Knicks, of course, are in the NBA’s largest market. Dolan is the proprietor of Madison Square Garden, where he can operate events other than just basketball. Then, there’s that TV contract with MSG along with the $24 billion the league just signed.

As the Knicks have surpassed the Lakers on the court, so too has their relative value increased. In last year’s report, the Lakers ($2.6 billion) barely eked past the Knicks ($2.5 billion) for No. 1 on the list.

Remember, these numbers aren’t set in stone. From a seller’s standpoint, a company is worth whatever a prospective buyer is willing to pay for it. That fact never proved truer than when Steve Ballmer went way over the estimated franchise value of the Clippers to purchase them for $2 billion a little more than a year ago.

So while the Knicks and Lakers might be valued at these numbers, we imagine it would take even more cash to pry them from their current owners.