In spite of the torture involved or the sadism inflicted, take a moment and remember last year. It’s painful, I know. Remember the Lakers after the first week in December. Remember Mike D’antoni’s particular smugness, his bad jokes and his fondness for saying “we just didn’t play hard” as if he was immune from responsibility. Remember the freakish and unexplainable injuries that came one after another as if the basketball god’s were trying to make a point about destiny. Remember the hapless second grade way every Lakers player played defense. Remember the Lakers being destroyed by the Clippers by 46 points. And then think about this.
The Lakers made $100 million dollars. One Hundred. Million. Dollars. In the year of death the Los Angeles Lakers basketball operations profited nine figures. $100 million Mother of God dollars. It was the Lakers worst season in Los Angeles history, so terrible if it was wiped out from the record books like houses are wiped out by tornadoes the entire organization would be better for it.
As reported by Zach Lowe of Grantland who authenticated a confidential memo the NBA sent out to all 30 teams in June, the profits and losses of the past season had the Lakers at the head of the class. In fact, their profit margin eclipsed everyone else in a landslide, similar to the way the Spurs demolished the Heat.
How badly did the Lakers overshadow their competitors? The Lakers profit margin was $39 million dollars more- yes that would be $39 MILLION MORE- than the Chicago Bulls who were second ($61 million). The Rockets were third, profiting $40 million dollars. Boston was fourth at $33 million dollars. Oklahoma City was fifth- $29 million dollars.
As Zach Lowe pointed out, the most impressive thing about the Lakers profits was that they paid $49 million dollars in revenue sharing, the most of any NBA team. And still took home more bank than anyone else. It’s pretty staggering. It would be one thing if the Lakers were a playoff team, if they had consecutive sellouts, if they were a contender, of if their games were an example of skill, good coaching, talent and competitiveness. But they were not a contender, their games were a showcase of mediocre talent, clueless coaching, casual attention to detail and terrible defense. Their ratings dropped off 50%.
But Time Warner hemorrhages money into the Lakers bank account and has been a game changer for them. It was why the Lakers could pay Kobe that enormous loyalty contract. On the other side of the country the Knicks also have their own television network. The Knicks 2013-14 season was exponentially better than the Lakers. But the Knicks, believe it or not, actually lost money (on the basketball operations side). Revenue sharing sliced into the Knicks profits- the same revenue sharing that acts as a thief whereas the rich are forced to give to the poor in a socialist version of NBA democracy.
More notes from Zach Lowe: The Bucks who just screwed over their head coach Larry Drew in favor of the insurgency of Jason Kidd will profit 14 million dollars. The Bucks had a terrible year, finished second in the lottery but made money. (This was how Donald Sterling proudly operated for years.) You don’t have to be a winning team to make money when revenue sharing will enable your addictive mediocrity. Why invest in the torturous work of team building when losing pays for your summer house and Paris vacations.
The Spurs, the champions of 2013-14 were sixth in profits. Before the lockout of 2011 the Spurs were losing money. At the bottom of the bottom were the New Jersey Nets who lost $144 million dollars on the basketball side of things. This number did not include profits from the Barclays Center.
It’s en vogue to talk about the Lakers in the past tense, to write off their ability to sustain relevance in this new era of NBA basketball where players unite and decide things among themselves and greedy coaches stage coups. But basketball is no different than any other business as far as money influencing money. As Ayn Rand once said: the question isn’t who is going to let me; it is who is going to stop me?
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