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Basketball is now king in the prairie. Sure, football has its moments but nothing brings the two rivaling alumni together like a classic Russell Westbrook slam dunk. Because of that blending of two schools, not to mention the many, many unaffiliated fans, the Thunder value rose 22 percent over last season.

Last season, Forbes dubbed Oklahoma City the 17th most valuable franchise, but they were only worth $1.05 million at the time. This season, in their 20th annual NBA Valuations, Forbes said the Thunder organization is worth $1.25 billion. That’s a nice 22 percent increase over last season. Five seasons ago, the Thunder were worth approximately $590 million and that still was considered a lot of money. A new TV revenue deal, a paid off arena and the Thunder’s ability to turn a profit is a big reason why the drastic increase.

While the 22 percent increase is nice. It’s also worth pointing out that’s only 21st biggest increase in the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers saw a 48 percent increase. While on the other end of it all, the Chicago Bulls only saw a four percent increase.

Every team in the NBA is worth over a billion dollars. In comparison to last season, 18 teams were worth a billion. New Orleans rounds up the bottom with a value of $1 Billion.

One major change for the Thunder is the drop in ranking. They’ve been ranked the 17th most valued franchise according to Forbes for the last two seasons and this season, Oklahoma City dropped to 18th. The Washington Wizards leaped the Thunder, and a handful of other franchises. Washington went from 18th to 14th, a massive jump in comparative years.

Another change from last season is the Thunder’s ability to turn a profit. Last year the Thunder with an $8.4 million deficit. This season, that’s skyrocketed to $64 million. That’s seventh highest in the NBA. Cleveland is the only franchise to lose money this season in operating income.

The New York Knicks ($3.6b), Los Angeles Lakers ($3.3b) and the Golden State Warriors ($3.1b) are all teams worth over $3 billion. Chicago ($2.6b) and Boston ($2.5b) round out the top five.

Brooklyn ($2.3b), Houston ($2.2b), L.A. Clippers ($2.15b), Dallas ($1.9b) and the Miami Heat ($1.7b) complete the top 10 of most valuable franchises according to Forbes.

The Thunder were never expected to be a team that was going to rake in the money. They’re a small market with only so many TV sets and one of the smaller arenas in the NBA. If they can stay around the 17th range, it’s a success for the team. Those slim margins are why the Thunder probably cannot afford a rebuilding session all over again and why they’ll have to pay the tax on occasion.

Oklahoma City’s rank on Forbes list of Most valuable:

  • 2018: 18 ($1.25 billion)
  • 2017: 17 ($1.0025 billion)
  • 2016: 17 ($950 million)
  • 2015: 13 ($930 million)
  • 2014: 11 ($590 million)
  • 2013: 12 ($475 million)
  • 2012: 15 ($348 million)
  • 2011: 18 ($329 million)
  • 2010: 18 ($329 million)
  • 2009: 20 ($310 million)
  • 2008: 24 ($324 million)

The value is nice but we know majority owner Clay Bennett is looking at that salary cap mark, $134 million. That’s approximately $15 million over the luxury tax line and boy are the Thunder going to pay. Right now their salary cap and luxury tax is approximate $149 million. This is a small market team with their largest sponsor laying people off and selling off assets. Oklahoma City has a thin margin for error.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.