A decade ago, the Golden State Warriors were far from the NBA royalty they are today. They were a middling franchise financially and much worse on the court, with only a single playoff appearance in 18 seasons. The then-NBA-record $450 million Joe Lacob and Peter Guber paid for the team in 2010 was a bet on a complete franchise makeover.
“Peter and I intend to do what we do best—innovating and building,” Lacob said in a statement announcing the purchase. “It is our passion to return the Warriors to greatness and build nothing short of a championship organization that will make all of us in the Bay Area proud.”
Lacob’s bold proclamation undersold what came next, as the Warriors hit the Holy Grail, with winning on and off the court.
After hiring Steve Kerr in 2014, the Dubs made the NBA Finals five straight years on the backs of stars like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. The team’s .640 winning percentage over the past decade is the NBA’s second-best—behind only the Spurs—and the Warriors once again sit atop the NBA standings in 2022 at 29-7.
The off-court success has been even more dramatic. Ticket and sponsorship demand soared ahead of the Chase Center’s construction and made another leap when the $1 billion venue opened its doors in 2019. Annual sponsor revenue hit $100 million in Year 1 of the new arena—an NBA first—and yearly suite prices topped $2 million. The club’s total annual revenue is the highest in the NBA by 20%. Last month, the Warriors were valued at $6 billion in Sportico’s NBA franchise valuations, a tick behind the Knicks and second overall.
“They became a national attraction as an NBA super team,” said Irwin Kishner, co-chair of the Sports Law Group at New York law firm Herrick Feinstein, in a phone interview. “There is a positive correlation between success on the field or court and franchise valuation, with the big caveat that there are many exceptions to the rule.”
The No. 1 exception to the rule also resides in the NBA, with the Knicks. Their .405 10-year winning percentage ranks fifth-worst in the NBA, and the club is at a league-worst .362 over the past five years. If you look at the two most valuable teams in the five major sports leagues, the Maple Leafs are the only other team with a below-average winning percentage over the past decade.
Winning can drive franchise values higher by boosting baseline revenue. It helps fill venues, lifts sponsorships and propels ticket prices higher, according to Kishner. But the correlation varies significantly between leagues, and winning ultimately is not as important to team value as its location and venue.
Sportico looked at the five major sports leagues to see which franchises delivered in the standings—both financial and playing. The charts measure the most recent franchise valuations by Sportico and the 10-year regular season winning percentage, based on the most recently completed seasons. For the NFL, we included the 2021 season, which is 94% finished, while MLS is based on five years of data because of the high number of recent expansion teams.
The Warriors posted the best results in the NBA by far, with an average rank of No. 2 in terms of valuation and winning. Next up were the Clippers, whose $3.16 billion value ranked seventh, and won at a .636 clip, third overall, followed by the Rockets ($2.79 billion, .592). The Timberwolves ($1.57 billion, .384) score the worst on a combined basis, as their valuation and winning percentage were both No. 28 in the 30-team NBA. The Magic ($1.69 billion, .369) and Pelicans ($1.51 billion, .425) joined the T-Wolves in the basement.
The correlation between winning and franchise value is weak in the NFL, thanks to the league’s rich national media contracts and relatively hard salary cap. The big market Giants, Bears, Jets and WFT are all worth at least $4 billion and rank among the NFL’s eight most valuable teams, but they’ve struggled on the field. Chicago is the winningest franchise of the group at .444 for the decade, No. 24 overall in the NFL, while Washington ranks No. 26 and the New York teams are both among the NFL’s four biggest losers.
The class of the NFL is the New England Patriots ($5.35 billion, .719). Their franchise value only trails the Cowboys, and their winning percentage is well ahead of second-ranked Seattle’s .653. Nine Super Bowl appearances over 20 years helped make Gillette Stadium one of the hottest Sunday tickets in New England and turned Patriot Place outside the stadium into a valuable mixed-used development for the Kraft family.
The Cowboys have only two playoff wins this decade, but their regular season performance is ninth-best in the league. The combined score for America’s Team on value ($6.92 billion) and winning (.556) nudged them ahead of the Seahawks in the NFL.
The Jaguars have been the NFL’s worst on the field, at a .256 winning clip, and their $2.65 billion valuation is No. 29. The Lions ($2.44 billion, .400) and Browns ($2.73 billion, .322) round out the bottom three overall.
The correlation between franchise value and winning is strongest in baseball, thanks to the absence of a salary cap allowing big market teams to outspend low revenue clubs for talent. Eight of the top 12 most valuable teams also rank in the top 12 on winning percentage. Yet, there are major outliers in Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Oakland, who all posted records among the top eight, while ranking in the bottom 10 for value.
The Yankees are in a 12-year World Series drought, but they are the class of MLB, as the most valuable team at $6.75 billion and a .563 winning percentage that only trails the Dodgers ($4.62 billion, .596). The Red Sox ($4.8 billion, .533) rank third overall. The three teams are baseball’s biggest spenders, dispersing nearly $6 billion combined to players over the past 10 years.
The Marlins ($1.12 billion, .431) have the dubious honor as the only team in sports to rank last in their league for both team value and winning. Also at the bottom are fellow 1990s expansion clubs, Colorado ($1.37 billion, .458) and Arizona ($1.28 billion, .468)
The Yankees, Warriors and Patriots are the only teams in U.S. sports to finish in the top two for both franchise value and winning in their respective leagues.
The Bruins are the best-performing NHL team, with a 10-year “points percentage” of .640—second to the Penguins’ .646—and a fifth-best franchise value of $1.31 billion. The B’s have won only a single Stanley Cup since Jeremy Jacobs bought the team for $10 million in 1975, but the team has consistently made the playoffs, while its value, including a 20% stake in NESN, has soared. The big market Rangers ($1.87 billion, .582) and Blackhawks ($1.36 billion, .592) join Boston at the top on combined score.
The Arizona Coyotes have been the NHL’s problem child for a decade-plus and score the worst in our NHL ratings, as hockey’s least valuable team at $410 million and the second-worst for points percentage at .485. (Expansion clubs Seattle and Las Vegas were excluded due to limited history).
The Blues ($710 million, .631) and Predators ($680 million, .593) have punched well above their weight, with disparities between value and performance that were among the highest across sports. Both clubs rank among the NHL’s top six for winning, while in the bottom 10 for value.
Only baseball has a stronger correlation than MLS between winning and franchise value. MLS is a gate-driven economic model, without big media contracts on either the local or national level. Winning helps attract more fans to the stadium, pushing revenue and valuations higher. The six winningest MLS teams are all among the 10 most valuable.
Los Angeles FC ($860 million, .597) is the most valuable MLS team, by Sportico’s count, and its winning percentage ranks third, based on the four-year franchise history. Seattle ($705 million, .604) and Atlanta ($845 million, .572), who perennially draw the most fans to games each year, round out the top three on a combined score.
San Jose, Houston and Chicago have lost the most games in MLS during the past five years but stayed out of the bottom three overall, thanks to their higher franchise values in attractive markets. CF Montréal ($380 million, .443) is the worst performer, due to MLS’ second-lowest team value and fourth-worst on-pitch performance. Colorado ($370 million, .458) and Orlando City ($400 million, .456) also sit among the league’s bottom three.