The Miami Heat may have failed to win its second NBA title in 2011, but it did win in other ways. Forbes Magazine listed the Heat as the sixth most valuable franchise in the NBA, worth $457 million.
Miami's franchise value rose 8 percent in 2011. As eye-popping as that franchise value looks, it is just over half the value of the Los Angeles Lakers, the most valuable team in the league. The New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics are the other teams whose value exceeds that of the Heat.
The Heat were one of the top-earning teams in the NBA last year, with an operating income of $26 million. Only the Knicks ($75 million), Bulls ($59 million) and Cleveland Cavaliers ($33 million - seriously) made more money in 2011.
So while Heat owner Micky Arison may have lost $1.3 billion last year due to capital losses on his Carnival Corp. holdings, at least he knows his other big investment is doing just fine.
With Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh anchoring a team that came oh so close to a title in 2011 and is favored to win it all in 2012, it is not hard to see why the Heat have done so well financially. The American Airlines Arena is sold out every game (plus the Heat get extra revenue from all those playoff games), and the Heat's local TV ratings doubled last season.
Miami is fortunate to be doing so well. Half the teams in the NBA lost money last year, including NBA Champions the Dallas Mavericks (though we're sure owner Mark Cuban does not mind losing $3.9 million that year).
Meanwhile, while James' former team in Cleveland raked in a boatload of cash thanks to a lower payroll and hefty season-ticket sales before he announced his decision to join the Heat, the team's value fell 7 percent a year after falling 26 percent. And Cleveland's attendance is down 20 percent so far this season, showing just how big of a boost James can give to a team's bottom line.
That is not the kind of statistic that gets usually gets taken into account in the MVP debate, but with so many teams ailing, perhaps it should.
James was also named the fourth-most powerful athlete in the US this week by Bloomberg Businessweek. He trails only a trio of NFL quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers). Bloomberg estimates James income topped $61 million last year, including his Heat salary and endorsement deals with McDonald's, Sprite and Nike.