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Bulls are raking in profits if not wins

Mar 4, 2010, 10:36 AM EDT

Location. Location. Location. And a favorable stadium deal.

In the world of profit and loss, the Bulls are your NBA champions. Last season, the Bulls made a profit of about $51 million. Over the last three years that sum is $165 million. Over the last decade the Bulls have made owner Jerry Reinsdorf $474 million in operating profit.

That is more than any team in the NBA. It is more profit than the Yankees made in the last decade. The Bulls may not have been a winner on the court since the Jordan era, but they have been a winner for Reinsdorf.

Doug Thonus over at Bulls Confidential took the time to compile the profit each team has made for the last 10 years — as estimated by Forbes, since the NBA owners won’t even show the Players Union the real books if they can help it — and the overall picture is that basketball remains a good business.

Especially if you are the Bulls, playing in a major market with a sweetheart stadium deal. Second on the profitability list over the last decade is the Lakers — which makes sense, not only is it another major market they have a lot of playoff dates to get extra revenue from. And a few titles to go with it.

Rounding out the most profitable team top 10 in the last decade is the Suns ($87 million the last three years, $275 million over 10), the Pistons ($126 million, $263 million), the Rockets, Celtics, Spurs, Clippers and Cavaliers.

Yes, Clippers. $140 million over the decade, about $10 million last year. It shows that market and keeping your payroll down matters more than winning.

The numbers also undercut the owners arguments of massive losses heading into the Collective Bargaining negotiations. No doubt, with his economy, team owners have been feeling the pinch the last couple years — Forbes estimates 11 teams lost money last season, and David Stern has said that more than half will this year and the owners will lose about $400 million total.

But over the last three years, nine teams have lost money, and the most lost was $46 million by Portland. In the past decade, seven franchises have not turned a profit — and they are some of the league’s worst-run (Pacers, Timberwolves, Nets, Bucks, Grizzles, Mavericks and Blazers).

Certainly the Mavericks are not poorly run, but don’t weep for Mark Cuban and his $154 million in losses in 10 years — these figures do not include the increase in the value of the franchises. That has steadily risen until the last couple years. Which is to say, the value of Cuban’s Mavericks has gone up a lot more than $154 million in the past decade. If he were to sell the team tomorrow, he would have made a net profit.

But not the kind of profit Reinsdorf makes.

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