The NBA recently signed a new TV revenue deal with national networks before the start of last season, which has led the league to generate copious amounts of money for having their marquee games televised on ESPN and TNT.
Despite this influx of income though, it’s been discovered by ESPN insiders Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst that 14 out of the 30 teams in the league actually operated at a loss last season before revenue sharing, and even when you include revenue sharing figures, that number only drops down to 9 teams.
Cavs and Spurs among nine NBA teams that lost money last season even after collecting revenue-sharing payouts: https://t.co/qF4BAXPIYf
— Jordan Manske (@JordanManske) September 19, 2017
Some of the teams who lost money last season aren’t really a surprise, such as the Nets, who brought up the rear end of the Eastern Conference, and the Bucks, who play in an extremely small market, even if they do have the Greek Freak on their roster.
But five teams are included in that 14 who should be nowhere near the bottom in terms of income.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards all operated at a loss last season, and it’s head-scratching as to why.
First off, it’s easy to see why the Cavs would be towards the bottom in terms of income, as they are so far over the salary cap that owner Dan Gilbert is paying through the nose in luxury tax fees. Still, Cleveland had both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the roster, two very marketable players, and made it to the NBA Finals, meaning added gate revenue for playoff games. What gives?
Another surprising team that lost money was the San Antonio Spurs. Sure, they may be in a small market compared to the New York’s and Los Angeles’ of the world, but the Spurs have been the most consistent team in the NBA for a long time, and despite Tim Duncan’s retirement, Kawhi Leonard stepped into the role of the number one option, leading the Spurs to a 61-21 record. What may be concerning is the Spurs were 14th in the league when it came to regular season attendance in terms of percentage, filling the AT&T Center to only 99.2% capacity on average.
Both the Hornets and Trail Blazers had relatively mediocre seasons — the Hornets missing the playoffs and the Blazers sneaking in as an 8th seed — but both squads have All-Star talent at the point guard position and a passionate fanbase, yet both teams were among the least profitable in the league, concerning news for owners Michael Jordan and Paul Allen.
The final surprising team to be in the red last season was the Washington Wizards, who had another successful season, finishing with a record of 49-33, good for 4th in the East. They also had a successful playoffs, taking the number one seeded Celtics to 7 games in the semifinals, as well as having John Wall and Bradley Beal on the roster. But, like San Antonio, Washington’s attendance was subpar, filling their home arena to only 83.8% capacity on average, good for 27th in the league.
With the NBA growing as a global entity year by year, they need to do a better job to make sure franchises are digging their own grave by playing in the association.