Aside from the New York Yankees, there may not be a bigger franchise in American pro sports than the Los Angeles Lakers. Playing in the entertainment capital of the world while being one of the most successful NBA franchises has its perks for owners. Even when things aren’t going well for the Lakers, however, the team is still a money-making machine. Recently leaked financial records highlight this trend.
The 2016-17 Los Angeles Lakers
For the Lakers, 2016-17 was an forgettable year. With Kobe Bryant retired, the struggling team did not have the star power it took for granted in 20 years. The team improved from 17 wins to 26, but this still meant they were among the worst teams in the NBA. It was a season unlike any they had in recent memory, even with recent struggles.
The Lakers had a bright young core in D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle, but they lacked the experience to make an immediate impact. Veterans like Jose Calderon, Nick Young, Metta World Peace, and Luol Deng were in the twilight of their careers while Lou Williams played his typical role off the bench. Although rumblings existed of LeBron James’ interest, the Lakers looked lost for the first time in ages.
All of this feels like a potential disaster, but this was not the case. Despite a diminished product, fans still flocked to Lakers games at Staples Center and abroad. The team was still in the national spotlight, albeit in a more subdued way. The recently leaked documents from the season reveal this was still a recipe for financial success, however.
Profit during losing times
Brian Windhorst first revealed the contents of the leaked documents this year at Fadeaway World. They revealed that despite everything working against the Lakers that could potentially prove disastrous for other teams, the team was thriving at its lowest moments. The Lakers made $115 million during the 2016-17 season.
Despite being outdated, these numbers show just how lucrative the NBA product can be for owners in a time where the entire sporting world is on hiatus.
“The league was not happy that I got this, and, uh, I’m sure they’ve taken measures,” Windhorst said per Republic World. “I haven’t tried to get a sense. I’m sure they’ve taken measures to prevent it from happening again. But I basically got the balance sheets of all the teams, and I was able to tell who was doing what.” Not every NBA franchise is built for this success, however, as Windhorst also showed.
Billionaires put up hundreds of millions of dollars in salary alone, not to mention arena costs and everything else that goes with sports ownership. Best case scenario, they end up like the Lakers. However, most teams are not this lucky. That same season the Lakers made so much money, the Detroit Pistons faced $63 million in losses.
Thanks to an agreement meant to incentivize winning, Pistons ownership had to pay its partners extra after missing the playoffs. This, on top of being a franchise in limbo as far as impact on the league, meant there was no room for profits anywhere.
The NBA is a lucrative business. While this lockout will hurt a lot of teams, the documents Windhorst reported show the impact could be far-reaching when compared on a team-by-team basis. With this much potential loss, however, the league will be desperate to get back and make more money.