Forbes magazine’s recent valuations of the 30 NBA franchises had each team worth at least $1 billion, but the Los Angeles Lakers, who were in town Thursday night to face the Timberwolves, came in at second place at a staggering $3.3 billion.
The only NBA team with a higher value was the New York Knicks at $3.6 billion.
There is no doubt that while NFL, MLB and NHL franchises continue to have great value, no league is showing gains like the NBA.
The Wolves showed the second-highest percentage gain in value, jumping 38 percent from last season, to $1.06 billion this year.
Glen Taylor said when he bought the Wolves for $88.5 million in 1994, he never thought the team would be worth over $1 billion. Taylor still owns 70 percent of the franchise.
“It never occurred to me that anything like this would happen,” said Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune. “But it has been, especially in the last few years, partly due to the big contract we got on TV, but just everything — the advertisements, sponsorships have gone up, attendance has gone up every year, and therefore the value has gone up.
“It’s just that it’s an asset that a number of people want, and there’s more people wanting them than there are teams, and therefore the value gets pushed up.”
It’s incredible to think that the Lakers were once bought for just $15,000. That’s how much it cost to get the Detroit Gems to become the Minneapolis Lakers in 1947.
When the Lakers joined the National Basketball League, the other teams were almost all from small-market areas: the Anderson (Ind.) Duffey Packers, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Zollner Pistons, Flint (Mich.) Dow A.C.’s, Indianapolis Kautskys, Oshkosh (Wis.) All-Stars, Rochester (N.Y.), Royals, Sheboygan (Wis.) Redskins, Syracuse (N.Y.), Nationals, Toledo (Ohio) Jeeps, Tri-Cities (Iowa/Illinois) Blackhawks.
A year earlier, the Basketball Association of America started in 1946, and the larger markets got involved, with teams in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Providence, St. Louis, Toronto and Washington.
The Lakers, Indianapolis, Rochester and Fort Wayne joined the BAA in 1948-49 and the following year was the first NBA season.
Since then, the Lakers’ value has skyrocketed.
Ben Berger sold them to Bob Short for $150,000 in 1957. Three years after that, the team moved to Los Angeles and in 1965 it was sold to Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke for more than $5 million.
In 1979 Jerry Buss purchased the Lakers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the teams’ Forum arena for $67.5 million. Buss died in 2013, but his children remain in charge of the Lakers.
Adjusted for inflation, $15,000 from 1947 is worth about $170,000 today. That means the value of the franchise has increased nearly 2 million percent in 71 years.
Salaries, tickets up
The Lakers’ top paid player is center Brook Lopez at $22.5 million this season. No. 2 is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the 24-year-old shooting guard who is averaging 13.1 points per game and making $17.7 million. No. 3 is Luol Deng at $17.2 million; the veteran has not played since the season opener and is still due more than $36 million over the next two seasons.
The highest-paid player in basketball played for the Lakers when they were in Minneapolis: George Mikan, who made $35,000, half the team’s $70,000 payroll. Jim Pollard got $12,000 and the rest of the team made the balance.
During that inaugural season at the Minneapolis Auditorium, tickets ran $2.40 for premium seats while nosebleeds went for $1.80.
Nowadays at the Staples Center, the Lakers’ highest-priced tickets typically go for about $1,000 while the lowest can go for about $50.
As for the Wolves, Taylor talked about some players who could be bought out, such as Shabazz Muhammad, who reportedly told the team earlier this month he wished to be traded or waived.
“Shabazz hasn’t gotten out on the floor to play very much, so he’s disappointed,” Taylor said. “He would like to get with a team that he could put in more minutes and show his skill-set. We have given the OK that if he finds such a team he can go to and wants to walk away, [he can] get out of our contract.
“My goal is I wish he could get out there, he just hasn’t had the year he anticipated or that we anticipated. Because of that, and we’ve had so many close games, it’s hard for us to find the minutes for him. I still like him and think our fans like him. He has a different style of playing than anybody else. But on the other hand, if he can find another team that I think tells him he can get on the floor for sure, I think we’ll cooperate.”
Taylor said Muhammad would have to get the deal done through his agent because the Wolves can’t talk to other teams.
On that same note, Taylor said the Wolves haven’t had any plans for point guard Derrick Rose joining the team now that the 2011 NBA MVP is a free agent.
“If we could find the right person to fit into our team and have some ability to play, get out there on the floor, we are certainly going to look at it,” Taylor said. “We kept one slot open all year long just in case that possibility occurred. But as of today we don’t have anybody in mind.”
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