Lakers Win Another Title: Most Valuable Franchise

Jerry Buss's team is winning on the court and he is winning off it.

By Kurt Helin
|  Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009  |  Updated 8:52 PM EDT
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Highlights: Lakers Bask in Suns Win Sunday

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SANTA MONICA, CA - APRIL 12: Actress Bai Ling and Dr. Jerry Buss play poker at the Los Angeles Lakers 3rd annual Mirage Las Vegas Casino Night and Bodog Celebrity Poker Invitational benefiting Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation at Barker Hangar on April 12, 2006 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images for Bodog.Com)

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It’s good to be the king.

And right now the Lakers are the kings of the NBA — they are the reigning champions. And they are worth more than any other team as well.

According to the annual Forbes Magazine report, the Lakers are worth $607 million. That is up four percent from last year and moves them past the New York Knicks, whose value declined four percent to $586 million (and considering the Kincks on-the-court record the last five years, it shows you the value of location).

After those two, it’s a little bit of a drop off to the rest of the top five: the Chicago Bulls ($511 million), the Detroit Pistons ($479 million) and the Cleveland Cavaliers ($476 million). For Clipper Daryl and the six other fans of the team that are curious, the Clippers were 23rd on the list at $295 million.

The weak economy hit the league this year, with the average franchise dropping in value by four percent. Forbes also estimated that 12 of the league’s 30 teams lost money last year.

Lakers owner Jerry Buss, however, is sitting pretty (or more likely sitting at a poker table). Buss bought the Lakers in 1979 for $67.5 million, and that came with the Fabulous Forum and the Los Angeles Kings (plus a ranch). Like what Buss had done in real estate before, it may not have been a cheap price but it was a good investment.

Buss and his family earned the increase in value. And had some luck — like buying the team right after it had drafted Magic Johnson. But Buss also understood what no other owner really did at the time — basketball is entertainment first. So there was music and the Laker Girls and the Forum Club for after game parties. There was a fast-breaking, fun style of play for the team. There was Showtime.

While the Lakers kept winning and putting on a show, the NFL moved out of town and the Dodgers struggled and had some owners that didn’t seem to care about the fans or winning. More and more Los Angeles became a Lakers town.

Now the Lakers are again kings of Los Angeles and kings of the NBA. They charge more to see a game than any team in the league, and they sell out nightly. They pack stadiums on the road, often with plenty of Lakers fans scattered around the country. They lead in merchandise sales. And they are the reigning NBA champions.

It’s good to be the king.

Kurt Helin lives in Los Angeles, has a net worth of roughly 67¢, and runs the NBA/Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (which you can also follow in twitter).  

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