With a residency of over 39 million people, California is by far and away the most populated state in the USA. Not surprisingly, they are home to more professional sports franchises than any other state, as well.
True to The Golden State’s largesse, California sports franchises are also increasing in value at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country. And that’s saying a lot, because sports organizations everywhere, both in the USA and internationally, are generally seeing their valuations explode year-over-year. What’s behind California’s rapidly evolving pro-sports market? The answer is multifold.
Population size has something to do with it. More residents will culminate in a bigger fanbase. But California sports teams have also, by and large, done a better job reeling in and retaining marketable superstar athletes. Think: LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), Mookie Betts with the Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB), Aaron Donald with the Los Angeles Rams (NFL) and so on. Having so many recognizable names leads to more revenue from cross-country and global fanbases, massive ticket sales, lucrative partnerships from sportsbooks, even though online betting California isn’t technically legal, and other exorbitant business and sponsorship opportunities.
Location also plays a huge role. Billionaires are drawn to investments in California, because they want to live there, due to its warm-weather climate, proximity to Las Vegas, the mystique of Hollywood and so much more.
For most franchises in The Golden State, this market appeal invariably leads to higher-end product performance, as well. California teams appeal to stars and are able to return them in large part because, just like billionaire entrepreneurs, pro athletes want to live there, too. The location is so appealing to the rich and powerful that non-glamour franchises are emboldened to acquire stars, even at steep opportunity costs, because they are confident those stars will stay.
Do you think the San Diego Padres (MLB) would have traded for Juan Soto or Manny Machado if they were based out of Kansas City? Would the Sacramento Kings (NBA) have traded a whole bunch for Domantas Sabonis if they played in Detroit? Would the Rams have rolled the dice on a Matthew Stafford trade if they were in Cincinnati? Probably not.
So, now we understand why California sports team valuations are skyrocketing at a faster clip than their pro-league peers. But how much are they actually worth in the year 2023? Let’s take a look at the most valuable sports organizations in organizations right now to find out.
These valuations will come from Sportico and will cover the most lucrative projections for teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.
1. Golden State Warriors – NBA – $7.56 billion
This valuation is no doubt owed to the Warriors’ dynasty. They have won four NBA titles since 2015 and also rostered two of the most prolific players from this generation, in Kevin Durant and franchise icon Stephen Curry.
Still, Golden State’s valuation receives a juicy bump thanks to team governors Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and company owning and operating the Chase Center. Having total control over the Warriors’ home court and the revenue opportunities that come with it, specifically in the real estate industry, has been a boon for the organization’s for the bottom.
Most other pro sports teams would kill to be in Golden State’s situation. In due time, we wouldn’t be surprised to see other franchises attempt similar real estate plays.
2. Los Angeles Lakers – NBA – $6.44 Billion
Another NBA team cracks the No. 2 spot, which isn’t exactly a surprise. Every team in the Association has seen their valuations generally skyrocket year-over-year. The league’s TV rights have grown increasingly lucrative at a time when live sports are one of the few reasons people tune into live television at all. Investments from TV partners like Warner Media and Disney have helped ensure every organization is a multibillion operation.
Of course, the Lakers are also one of the NBA’s premier flagship teams. They are tied with the Boston Celtics for the most NBA titles of all time, and their history is littered with generational names that have donned their purple and gold uniforms.
From Kobe Bryant to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Magic Johnson, the list of all-time greats who called themselves Lakers is seemingly endless. It also includes the active LeBron James, who is no worse than the second best player in league history.
Beyond winning and the star power that has driven, the Lakers also get the desirable-market nudge. Los Angeles is the most desired locale among professional athletes. If the Lakers are ever sold by the Buss family, they’ll probably shoot up to No. 1 on this list.
3. Los Angeles Rams – NFL – $5.91 Billion
Many worried that an NFL team in Los Angeles would struggle to inspire a loyal fanbase.
So much for that.
Football fans have taken to the Rams like a fish in water. It helps, obviously, that L.A. won a Super Bowl in 2021. But they have only been based out of Hollywood since 2016. Sniffing a $6 billion valuation is absurd.
This number speaks to a material interest in football. Yes, the L.A. market is an investment goldmine. But Hollywood is also home to the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Rams compete with the San Francisco 49ers for fans, as well.
Which is all to say: The Rams were never assured of being this valuable. But the California sports market has once again spoken.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers – MLB – $5.21 Billion
Playing in Hollywood once again buoys this valuation. But this $5-plus billion sticker is so much more than the Dodgers’ location.
When casual fans think of Major League Baseball, they are immediately drawn toward two teams: The New York Yankees and Dodgers. More contemporary fans are probably drawn to the Dodgers alone. Their rich history plays into their valuation.
More recently, Los Angeles has also developed a propensity for spending the biggest names, both in free agency and on the trade market. The end result: Three World Series appearances and one championship since 2017. The Dodgers are a great reminder that winning at the highest level will always drive franchise values through the roof.
5. San Francisco 49ers – NFL – $5.18 Billion
If you needed any more evidence that the NFL prints money, well, here you go.
To the Niners’ credit, they have an illustrious history. And they’ve also been on a terrific run in recent years. San Francisco made it to the Super Bowl in 2019 and has come one win shy of additional Super Bowl appearances in each of the last two years.
Nevertheless, their $5.2ish billion valuation is particularly impressive. Not only are they competing for interest with the Rams and Chargers, but franchise net worths are often inextricably tied to superstar franchise quarterbacks. The Niners do not have a franchise quarterback and haven’t started once since the peak of Colin Kaepernick around 2013 or 2014. Before that, their last iconic QB1 was Jeff Garcia in the early 2000s.
San Francisco has instead captured attention and plenty of Ws with a routinely exhaustive, blue-collar-like defense—which is somewhat ironic, given the fact there’s nothing blue collar about the Niners’ franchise valuation.