NEW YORK - For the second year in a row, the New York Knicks top Forbes' annual list of most valuable NBA clubs, with teams an average of 25 percent more valuable than in 2013.
Figures announced Wednesday on the magazine's website showed the Knicks on top at $1.4 billion with the Los Angeles Lakers second on $1.35 billion, the Chicago Bulls third at $1 billion and the Boston Celtics fourth at $875 million.
Just 10 days ahead of the February 1 retirement of NBA commissioner David Stern after 30 years in the post, the NBA has grown from a league dominated by superstars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to a global business only beginning to tap revenue streams in India and China.
Where playoff games were televised on a delayed basis in the early days of Stern's era, they are now seen live in more than 215 nations.
Forbes estimated the average NBA team is now worth $634 million, with profits doubling last year to a record $23.7 million average per club, and league revenue for last year at $4.6 billion.
The Knicks made an NBA-record $96 million profit last season, aided by extra income from a renovation of their home arena, Madison Square Garden, according to the magazine.
Despite the NBA's highest payroll, the Lakers made a $66 million profit, Forbes said, with the Bulls third thanks to four years atop the NBA home attendance list and relatively low salary costs. The Bulls profit of $52 million ranked fourth in the league.
The Brooklyn Nets rose by the greatest value last year, jumping 47 percent to $780 million, the team owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov rising from 14th to fifth in overall value.
Forbes estimated the NBA's 30 clubs are collectively worth $19 billion, with only four teams losing money last season and revenue sharing helping turn Charlotte, Memphis and 2014 NBA doormat Milwaukee into proftable teams.
Kobe Bryant of the Lakers was the NBA's highest-paid player after signing a two-year contract extension worth $48.5 million last November, boosting his total income to $64.5 million with Lebron James of the Miami Heat second on $61.1 million with $42 million from endorsement deals and Chicago's injured Derrick Rose third on $38.6 million, mostly from a 13-year shoe deal worth $185 million.
NBA television deals that expire after the 2015-16 campaign now bring the league $939 million a year, with the Lakers helped by a rich new local TV deal.
Ten NBA clubs have been sold since 2010, boosting values for all, the most recent being Sacramento last May for $534 million to India-born businessman Vivek Ranadive.
NBA China launched in 2008 and is estimated to be worth between $1.5 billion and $1.7 billion with revenues approaching $200 million in 2014, Forbes said.
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