Forbes: Knicks top NBA at $1.1 billion

Updated: January 23, 2013, 9:08 PM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Back in July, there was widespread belief the New York Knicks would take a financial hit after Jeremy Lin signed with the Houston Rockets.

Apparently, Lin's departure hasn't affected the bottom line.

According to Forbes Magazine, the Knicks are the NBA's most valuable team. The magazine's most recent franchise valuations say the team is worth $1.1 billion.

The Lakers are second on this year's list, valued at $1 billion. The Brooklyn Nets are ninth on Forbes' list, valued at $530 million.

The magazine reports that the Knicks' value rose 41 percent over the past season thanks to the ongoing renovation of Madison Square Garden, an increase in television ratings and merchandising sales, and the team's on-court success (the Knicks won their first playoff game in 11 seasons in 2012).

Forbes reports that the $980 million renovation of Madison Square Garden, scheduled to be completed this summer, has helped produce $243 million in revenue for the Knicks, the highest profit in the NBA.

The renovation has changed seating configuration at the Garden, putting a majority of seats closer to the court.

The new seating allowed the Knicks to raise season-ticket prices by an average of 49 percent after the 2010-11 season.

The renovation also gave MSG an opportunity to generate revenue from new advertising opportunities and to revamp its luxury boxes, thereby increasing the prices for them.

"This is all a significant increase in revenue," Richard Tullo, the director of research at the Wall Street firm Albert Fried & Company, said last month.

In addition, ratings for Knicks games were up 74 percent compared to the same period last season, according to Forbes.

Last season, thanks to a boost from Lin's remarkable run, the MSG Network's telecasts of Knicks games averaged a 3.30 Nielsen household rating, making it the highest-rated regular season ever on MSG.

Ratings are on a similar pace this season. Knicks merchandise sales are also strong, though that accounts for a small portion of revenue for the team.

According to figures released by the NBA, the Knicks jersey was the top-selling jersey in the league from April 2012 through Nov. 26, 2012.

Lin was partially responsible for the team's strong jersey sales. But the Knicks elected not to match Houston's three-year, $25.1 million offer to the point guard over the summer.

Two marketing deals with Taiwanese-based companies were not renewed with the Knicks after Lin left, but that does not appear to have affected the Knicks' bottom line.

The Madison Square Garden stock price fell from $38.91 on July 3 to $34.73 on July 23, shortly after the Knicks elected to let Lin walk. At the close of trading on Tuesday, the stock was valued at $49.50.

According to Forbes, the average NBA team is worth $509 million, a 30 percent increase from last season.

The Knicks ranked second in the NBA valuation last year, behind the Lakers. They were worth $780 million, according to Forbes.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.