clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How much did each NBA owner pay to buy their teams?

New, comments

Prices have jumped from $5 million to $2.2 billion in the span of almost 40 years.

Denver Nuggets v Houston Rockets Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are changing ownership hands for the record setting price of $2.2 billion. Historically, this is an unprecedented price to pay for an NBA franchise, but over the coming years, it looks more and more like it will be the norm. The league is exploding monetarily due to its rising popularity and a record-setting $24 billion television deal that kicked in last season.

In light of the Rockets deal, here’s a list of all 30 NBA franchises, when they were sold, and how much they sold for at the time.


TEAMS SOLD SINCE 2010

HOUSTON ROCKETS: $2.2 billion (Sept. 2017)

The Rockets deal only took about six weeks to finalize after Leslie Alexander announced his intentions to sell the team, but the new figure might not last as long as you think.

ATLANTA HAWKS: $850 million (April 2015)

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: $2 billion (April 2014)

Due to Donald Sterling’s disgraced exit, the Clippers sale happened abruptly. With Microsoft owner Steve Ballmer (net worth: $33 billion) purchasing the team and the Los Angeles vicinity driving up the price, the selling price shattered the record, making the Clippers the first team to sell for more than a billion.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS: $550 million (April 2014)

SACRAMENTO KINGS: $534 million (May 2013)

Who would have thought that the Kings, at any point, would have held the record for most lucrative sale? It was a relief for Sacramento fans, who feared they would lose their franchise to another city but also wanted the team out of the hands of the hated Maloof brothers. The price was driven up in part by a bidding war from Chris Hansen and his Seattle-based backing group.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: $350 million (June 2012)

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: $338 million (June 2012)

The NBA actually owned the New Orleans franchise — then the Hornets — from 2010 until this sale. Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints, saved the league from an awkward situation that had dragged out too long.

TORONTO RAPTORS: $1.32 billion (Dec. 2011)

The $1 billion figure here is misleading, since that’s actually the price that the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group was purchased for in a joint effort by Rogers Communication and Bell Canada. The Raptors, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Air Canada Centre, are owned by MLSE. It isn’t clear what exactly the Raptors would have sold for by themselves in this deal, but you can imagine it would be several hundreds of millions.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: $280 million (Oct. 2011)

DETROIT PISTONS: $325 million (June 2011)

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: $450 million (July 2010)

The Bay Area and its exploding tech industry helped cause the Warriors — then a wandering squad with little recent success — to become the biggest ownership sale at the time. It’s safe to say that worked out.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: $310 million (June 2010)

BROOKLYN NETS: $200 million (May 2010)

CHARLOTTE HORNETS: $275 million (March 2010)

Michael Jordan joined the league once again, this time as an owner. The Hornets ownership has helped him now become valued as a billionaire. This was also the first ownership purchase since the 2007-08 financial crisis.


Olympics Day 12 - Basketball Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

TEAMS SOLD BETWEEN 2000 AND 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: $350 million (Oct. 2006)

It’s the Thunder now, but when the franchise was sold, it was the Seattle Supersonics. When Clay Bennett purchased the team in 2006 from Howard Schultz, he said that he wouldn’t be moving them to his hometown of Oklahoma City. Two years later, he did just that, enraging Seattle fans who have never quite gotten over how the events transpired.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: $375 million (Jan. 2005)

PHOENIX SUNS: $401 million (April 2004)

BOSTON CELTICS: $360 million (Sept. 2002)

With two consecutive ownership sales, the NBA set new records — with the Celtics first and then the Suns two years later.

DENVER NUGGETS: $450 million (April 2000)

Like several other teams around the league, the Nuggets are owned by a group that includes their local NHL team and arena — in this case, the Colorado Avalanche and the Pepsi Center.

DALLAS MAVERICKS: $285 million (Jan. 2000)

There’s no owner quite like Mark Cuban, who took over the Mavericks in 2000 and has easily been the most fined owner ever since.


Madison Square Garden Company Special Announcement Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

TEAMS SOLD BEFORE 2000

NEW YORK KNICKS: $1.1 billion (Aug. 1997)

The Knicks have changed hands of various ownership groups but have been in the grasps of the Dolans — Charles and now James — since 1977.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: unclear (1995)

There was only one team that didn’t clearly have a reported figure attached to the team being sold, at least through our research. It was the Timberwolves, which were sold to Glen Taylor more than two decades ago.

MIAMI HEAT: $68 million (1995)

SAN ANTONIO SPURS: $75 million (1993)

ORLANDO MAGIC: $85 million (Sept. 1991)

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: $70 million (1988)

UTAH JAZZ: $26.8 million (1985-1986)

Larry H. Miller, who has since passed away, bought 50 percent of the team in 1985 and the other 50 percent one year later. The $26.8 million is a combined total.

CHICAGO BULLS: $16 million (1985)

INDIANA PACERS: $4.5 million (April 1983)

LOS ANGELES LAKERS: $67 million (1979)

The Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings, and The Forum were sold together, although Jerry Buss later sold the Kings.