Whether it’s playing a pickup game in a local park or getting to some of the 1,230 NBA games played each season, it’s no secret that basketball enthusiasts are a passionate group. And they are in good company, with hundreds of millions of people worldwide counting themselves as basketball fans.
Hundreds of millions of fans means hundreds of millions of consumers, many of whom put money into game tickets, streaming access to events, branded gear, sporting equipment, and memorabilia. Those that don’t spend cash to support their favorite team consume the advertising that accompanies these events, which drives revenue for individual teams and the NBA as a whole.
During the 2020 – 2021 season, the NBA had an estimated $1.46 billion in sponsorship revenue alone. That comes from major corporations like Microsoft (MSFT), the Official Technology Partner of the NBA, American Express (AXP), the Official Card of the NBA, and Nike (NKE), the exclusive apparel provider of the NBA. There are also large deals with companies like State Farm, Google, and Verizon (VZ).
Media rights generate another $2 billion in revenue for the league, and the rest comes from ticket sales and merchandising. Total revenue for the 2021 – 2022 season is expected to be around $10 billion.
With numbers like that, it’s no wonder investors and fans have the same burning question…
Can I Invest In The NBA?
The bad news for those hoping to own a piece of the NBA is that the company is not publicly traded.
Buying shares on the open market isn’t an option, which is disappointing for many basketball fans.
The good news is that there are a number of alternative options for investing in the NBA’s success – options that carry less risk and are more likely to deliver solid returns.
What Company Owns The NBA?
The ownership structure of the NBA gets a bit complicated. The league isn’t owned by another company. Instead, it is owned by its 30 member teams, so the owner(s) of each of those teams have an equal stake in the business. The teams and their majority owner(s) are as follows:
- Boston Celtics – Wyc Grousbeck
- Brooklyn Nets – Joe Tsai
- New York Knicks – Cablevision (James Dolan)
- Philadelphia 76ers – Joshua Harris
- Toronto Raptors – Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment
- Chicago Bulls – Jerry Reinsdorf
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Dan Gilbert
- Detroit Pistons – Tom Gores
- Indiana Pacers – Herb Simon
- Milwaukee Bucks – Wesley Edens & Marc Lasry
- Atlanta Hawks – Tony Ressler
- Charlotte Hornets – Michael Jordan
- Miami Heat – Micky Arison
- Orlando Magic – Rick DeVos
- Washington Wizards – Ted Leonsis
- Denver Nuggets – Stan Kroenke
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Glen Taylor
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Clay Bennett
- Portland Trail Blazers – Paul Allen
- Utah Jazz – Ryan Smith
- Golden State Warriors – Joe Lacob
- LA Clippers – Steve Ballmer
- Los Angeles Lakers – Jerry Buss Family Trust
- Phoenix Suns – Robert Sarver
- Sacramento Kings – Vivek Ranadive
- Dallas Mavericks – Mark Cuban
- Houston Rockets – Tilman Fertitta
- Memphis Grizzlies – Robert Pera
- New Orleans Pelicans – Tom Benson
- San Antonio Spurs – Peter Holt
In addition to the majority owners listed here, many teams have other owners with a smaller stake in the franchise. Together, this group controls the NBA and enjoys any resulting profits.
Is The NBA a Private Limited Company?
The structure of the NBA is surprisingly unclear, considering it is in its 75th year. It is a privately held company, but its Constitution and By-Laws define it as an Association. Decisions are made by the Board of Governors, and the relationship between members is referred to as a contractual one. The NBA falls under New York State jurisdiction.
Courts in various states have defined the NBA differently, depending on the question that is being considered. Some have referred to the Association as a joint venture, while others defined it as a single entity.
The distinction is based on whether the court is considering potential issues with federal antitrust law, which is designed to protect consumers by promoting healthy competition, rather than state organization law, which is designed to establish the rights and responsibilities of management.
While this distinction is important to the operation of the NBA, it is a moot point from an investment perspective. For investors, the bottom line is that the Association is not publicly traded. In order to be a part of the NBA, it is necessary to have an ownership interest in an NBA member team.
Can You Buy Stock In Professional Sports Teams?
Most professional sports teams are not publicly traded. There are a variety of reasons for this – the biggest may be that most sports team revenue is used to pay players and managers. As a result, it is common for teams to operate at a loss, and private ownership has tax benefits for such businesses.
However, there are a handful of teams that trade publicly across national and international leagues – or they are owned by companies that are publicly traded. Examples include:
- Ajax Amsterdam – Euronext
- Bali United Football Club – Indonesia Stock Exchange
- Sport Lisboa e Benfica – Portuguese Stock Index
- Celtic Football Club – London Stock Exchange
- Borussia Dortmund – Xetra
- Football Club Copenhagen – Copenhagen Stock Exchange
- Manchester United Football Club – NYSE
It is worth noting that the NFL’s Green Bay Packers is also publicly held, but it isn’t traded on an exchange. Instead, it is a non-profit, and shares are owned by community members. They are rarely available for sale, and then they are only sold to residents of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Can You Invest Into An NBA Team?
Most NBA teams are privately owned, with a few exceptions. Madison Square Garden Sports Corp. is a publicly-traded company that owns the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers.
Canadian-based telecommunications company BCE Inc. is a partial owner of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which in turn owns a variety of sports teams, including the Toronto Raptors.
Alternatives to Investing In The NBA
If your goal is to generate returns on your investment, buying into the companies most closely associated with the NBA is the best option. NBA and team sponsors realize revenue from the partnership indirectly, which can be an advantage for shareholders.
While sports leagues and franchises aren’t focused on profitability, publicly-traded companies that sponsor the NBA most certainly are. The brand exposure gained from sponsoring the NBA contributes to top-line revenue and bottom-line results, which ultimately increases the value of your portfolio.
Examples of publicly-traded companies closely associated with the NBA include the following:
Investors might also wish to consider team jersey sponsors, as some sponsoring companies are publicly traded. For the 2021 – 2022 season, publicly-traded jersey sponsors include:
- Atlanta Hawks – Sharecare
- Boston Celtics – Vistaprint (a subsidiary of Cimpress)
- Charlotte Hornets – Lending Tree
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
- Denver Nuggets – Western Union
- Detroit Pistons – United Wholesale Mortgage
- Golden State Warriors – Rakuten
- Indiana Pacers – Motorola
- Los Angeles Lakers – bibigo
- Memphis Grizzlies – FedEx
- Miami Heat – Ultimate Kronos Group
- Milwaukee Bucks – Motorola
- New York Knicks – Squarespace
- Orlando Magic – Walt Disney World
- Phoenix Suns – PayPal
- San Antonio Spurs – Frost Bank
- Toronto Raptors – Sun Life Financial
- Utah Jazz – Qualtrics
- Washington Wizards – Geico
The bottom line is that it isn’t possible to invest in the NBA directly, but there are still plenty of options for fans who want a piece of the action. Investors who are focused on growing their portfolio value can buy shares in the many companies that sponsor the NBA and its teams.
The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Financhill has a disclosure policy. This post may contain affiliate links or links from our sponsors.