San Francisco’s Golden State Warriors have retained their status as NBA basketball’s most valuable franchise, with the average team value rising by 33% to $4 billion in the last year, according to Sportico’s latest valuation.

The Warriors, worth an estimated $8.28 billion, are followed by the New York Knicks ($7.43 billion) and the fellow California-based Los Angeles Lakers ($7.34 billion).

In franchise value, the trio form a class of their own. The fourth-placed Boston Celtics were valued at 44% less ($5.12 billion) than their long-time rivals in Los Angeles despite seeing a 31% value increase over the last year.

A flurry of deals

The NBA’s dramatically rising valuations are partly due to a spate of recent sales.

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By GlobalData

At the end of November, US billionaire Mark Cuban announced he would be selling his majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks for around $3.5 billion. Cuban purchased the Mavericks for a mere $285 million in 2000.

Earlier in the year, ex-NBA legend Michael Jordan sold the Charlotte Hornets for $3 billion, while a minority stake sale in the Milwaukee Bucks valued the franchise at $3.2 billion.

Analysts have also pointed to media rights revenue as a contributing factor.

“This surge in NBA franchise value reflects the expected growth in media rights revenue that the league is looking for in its next media rights cycle, with $78 billion the reported target,” comments Conrad Wiacek, Head of Analysis at GlobalData Sport.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is reportedly seeking to treble the revenue of existing domestic media rights deals with ESPN and Warner Bros Discovery (WBD). Signed in 2014, these tie-ups are worth $24 billion – and expire at the end of the 2024-25 season.

“The NBA has also built a strong presence with younger demographics through its social media presence”, Wiacek adds. “It is, in addition, one of very few leagues to effectively build a direct-to-consumer platform with the NBA League Pass.”

Bucking the European media rights trend

While the NBA 2023 season generated more than $1 billion in sponsorship revenue, according to GlobalData, media rights is a far more lucrative business.

Adam Silver’s lofty target depends on the NBA avoiding the valuation ceiling for media rights seen in recent months in European sports.

Speculation has been swirling, for example, about whether the media rights bubble of Europe’s ‘Big Five’ soccer leagues is about to burst.

The English Premier League has retained domestic control through recent deals with pay-TV broadcasters Sky and TNT Sports (formerly BT Sport), after the duo secured four-year rights deals, starting in 2025-26, worth $8.45 billion.

Meanwhile, the Italian government has approved a five-year ceiling for sports broadcast media rights deals.

Wiacek believes the NBA “may not reach the figure aimed for”, but points to various ways in which the world’s leading basketball competition could generate alternative broadcasting revenues.

“The NBA could link its streaming services to over-the-top platforms such as Max, owned by Warner. Bros Discovery,” he says. “The ‘unbundling’ trend of recent years seems to be reverting – but moving onto apps instead of back to traditional cable packages.”

“Offering NBA content alongside dramas and films on a streaming service such as Max would be an effective way of reaching audiences that may not pay for sports packages alone.”