There is no compelling reason why you should necessarily believe, let alone care about, the exhaustive ESPN story about 14 NBA teams losing money in these flush times (or ten, or nine, depending on what numbers you use).
But at some point the Golden State Warriors might have to do so.
The report is a head-scratcher not because the authors, Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe, don’t know what they’re doing – quite the contrary. They are very good at what they do. But it is because the NBA has never had more money at its disposal, even after all the massive player contracts they have paid out in The Great Money Burn, and has, as owners are wont to do, decided to fight over how all that money is distributed.
The Warriors are among the league’s best earners ($91.9 million profit a year ago, even after paying $42 million in revenue sharing), but if 143 (or 10, or nine) teams are losing money after the $24 billion TV deal that crazed them all, all of a sudden the Oakland economic juggernaut might well find itself with significantly less.
Not enough for you to care, necessarily, but enough that their pending luxury tax bills might pinch a good deal more than they already do, and enough that their new arena turn from loss to profit might be delayed.
The ESPN report is careful to point out that other arena income isn’t factored into these numbers, and the old canard that there are always three sets of books – one for the tax man, one for your partners and the true one – has never been more useful. In short, without knowing the source of documents Lowe and Windhorst received, we cannot educatedly speculate on the motive behind the leak.
The Warriors will be fine no matter whether the league decides to make sure all teams are genuinely profitable every year by recalibrating revenue sharing or tax payments. They have gone from a fringe operation economically to one of the industry leaders (the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knickerbockers are still the king and prince regent of this royal family).
But the only thing that makes billionaires itchier than having “not enough” money is watching one of their partners having what they consider “too much” money. Which is to say, more money than they themselves do. The boardroom battle over that will begin shortly, if it hasn’t already started.
Money’s funny that way. After all, if there’s one last quarter heading toward a sewer grate, there will be 50 well-dressed middle-aged and old men bashing heads in unison trying to grab it before it falls.