The 2010 NBA finals is an exciting and frustrating time for fans, players and owners. Some fans will be happy their team made it to the finals. Others will be wondering what their team can do to improve next year. For the owners and players it is an exciting time as well. After all, this is a professional sport and a lot of money is at stake for owners, players and anyone else with a financial interest in the game.

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A look at the numbers will provide some insight on the game and what it means to interested parties.

By The Numbers

  • $607 million: The value Forbes magazine set for the Los Angeles Lakers after winning the NBA championship in 2009. The New York Knicks came in second ($586 million), followed by the Chicago Bulls ($511 million), the Detroit Pistons ($479 million) and the Cleveland Cavaliers ($476 million). (Find out how money plays a part in the world of baseball. Read Money Can't Buy Happiness, But What About World Series Championships?)

  • $91,377,313: The payroll for the Lakers for the 2009-2010 season. The Dallas Mavericks come in second at $86.9 million followed by the Boston Celtics ($86.5 million), the New York Knicks ($85.1 million) and then the Cleveland Cavaliers ($84.5 million). The Mavericks, Knicks and Cavaliers all failed to make it to the conference finals in 2010.

    Does a high payroll create more value for the owner? The table below compares team payrolls and the top 10 and bottom 10 teams by value as determined by Forbes. Eyeballing the list there is a correlation that the higher your payroll the better valuation you receive. It's unclear if the Clippers raised their payroll to the Lakers level they would see their valuation rise. Winning would go a long way to making a difference.
Team Value (Millions) 2009-2010 Payroll (Millions) Ratio
Lakers 607 91.377 15.1%
Knicks 586 85.06 14.5%
Pistons 479 61.678 12.9%
Bulls 511 69.993 13.7%
Rockets 470 69.267 14.7%
Cavaliers 476 84.453 17.7%
Mavericks 446 86.972 19.5%
Suns 429 74.927 17.5%
Celtics 433 86.455 20.0%
Spurs 398 79.159 19.9%
Bottom 10 by Team Value
Hawks 306 65.876 21.5%
Kings 305 67.364 22.1%
Clippers 295 61.447 20.8%
Pacers 281 66.733 23.7%
Bobcats 278 68.591 24.7%
Nets 269 59.397 22.1%
Timberwolves 268 62.55 23.3%
Hornets 267 70.904 26.6%
Grizzlies 257 57.406 22.3%
Bucks 254 66.944 26.4%
  • $23,239,561: Tracy McGrady's New York Knicks salary for the 2009-2010 season, making him the league's highest paid player. Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers came in second at $23.0 million. (Learn about undervalued sports contracts in Financial Pro Sports Steals.)

  • $51.1 million: The most operating income for an NBA franchise, by you guessed it, the Lakers. The Chicago Bulls produced $51.0 million followed by the Detroit Pistons with $46.9 million.

  • 17: Most championships by an NBA team. The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships followed closely by the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, who have won 15 NBA championships. As of the writing of this article, the Celtics and the Lakers were playing for a spot in the 2010 finals.

  • 2 of 3: Two of the top three teams in total payrolls have won the most championships, indicating that high salaries do contribute to on-the-court success.

Bottom Line
Like any business, some NBA teams always are on top while others lag. As any sports fanatic knows there are many numbers that offer additional insight. Following the numbers distinguishes the best from the also ran. Just remember to enjoy the game.

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