Last summer and fall was all about big markets, small markets and owners making a profit. As you can see from the pinnacle of the NBA’s most profitable teams, consisting of the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and way above the rest, the Chicago Bulls, playing in a big city is a pretty good way to make money off your team.
Houston Rockets – $29 Million 5-year Average Profit
The Houston Rockets haven’t made the postseason over the last three seasons, which has seen their operating income fall by 50% in 2010-11, as their attendance numbers have dropped to 22nd in the NBA, averaging 15,363 in attendance last season. A low payroll keeps them profitable, and the arrival of Jeremy Lin will help that as well, although this team doesn’t look like a playoff bound group.
New York Knicks – $30 Million 5-year Average Profit
While Isiah Thomas was onboard and officially involved with the team, the Knicks were bleeding money. After Donnie Walsh’s arrival and later on Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks are selling out tickets once again (with Lin also helping last season); they were the NBA’s most profitable team in 2011-2012.
Detroit Pistons - $34 Million 5-year Average Profit
The Pistons have been awful over the last few seasons, missing the playoffs three years in a row. In 2012-2013, the signs of some ambition and no more talk of rebuilding might be showing. Their attendance was the lowest in the NBA last season, averaging only 14,413 in attendance, 65.3% of their arena’s capacity.
Los Angeles Lakers – $38 Million 5-year Average Profit
Kobe Bryant and others are a huge burden on the Lakers’ payroll, but their media deals are too good to be true, managing to cover their huge luxury tax penalties, now and in the very near future with Dwight Howard joining the team. Attendance is never a problem, with the Lakers making three NBA finals and two more conference semi finals over the last five seasons.
Chicago Bulls – $55 Million 5-year Average Profit
The Chicago Bulls have been past the first round of the playoffs only once over the last five seasons, but there’s a great deal of love for this team nearly two decades since the height of the Jordan era. Derrick Rose and a team that plays the kind of basketball people love to see in this city give the Bulls the heights attendance numbers in the NBA (22,161) three of the last five seasons.