Lakers are most valuable NBA franchise, according to Forbes

Forbes says Lakers are worth $2.6 billion, a 93% increase

The Lakers were finally winners again.

They were declared the NBA's most valuable franchise, worth $2.6 billion, according to Forbes' annual rankings released Wednesday.

The franchise jumped a whopping 93% from its previous value, strengthened by a new national TV deal that boosted all teams. The Lakers also have a strong local TV deal with Time Warner Cable worth $5 billion over 25 years.

The Lakers (12-31) currently have the NBA's fourth-worst record, but "the brand is still very popular," Coach Byron Scott said Wednesday before speaking of late owner Jerry Buss.

"Dr. Buss did an unbelievable job of getting this brand to where it is today and that's why it's still as popular as it is. And I think the market also helps. You're in Los Angeles, so it's one of the best markets in the world."

The new $24-billion national TV deal increased the worth of the average NBA franchise to $1.1 billion, a 74% jump from last year, according to Forbes.

The New York Knicks were Forbes' second-most-valuable NBA franchise, coming in at $2.5 billion. The Clippers were valued at $1.6 billion, fifth in the league, but less than the $2 billion Steve Ballmer paid for them last year.

"Yeah, well, we're not talking about that team," Scott said wryly.

The Lakers had the league's highest revenue last season ($293 million), according to Forbes, and their operating income was an NBA-record $104 million despite Kobe Bryant playing only six games. The franchise could have profited more but had to pony up $50 million to the league's revenue-sharing pool.

Scott said he hadn't asked for a raise despite the Lakers' huge financial jump.

"No, not yet," he said. "You've got to earn that. We've got to do better as a basketball team. I'm not thinking about that for another three years."

Big Bryant fan

Anthony Davis might be the NBA's best power forward, but he wasn't much of a factor on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

Nobody played fewer minutes than him. Nobody scored fewer points.

But he got to know Bryant a little bit and called him a "great guy" when asked about it Wednesday before New Orleans beat the Lakers, 96-80.

"That whole Olympic experience, he kind of took me under his wing and showed me a lot about the game and a lot about hard work," said Davis, the only college player on the team that beat Spain in the gold-medal game.

"He'll bring the competitive nature out in everybody," he added. "Any good team that has Kobe on the team is in it to win it. That was my first time [meeting him]. I loved every moment of it."

Davis had 29 points and four blocked shots against the Lakers.

TV changes

ESPN dropped its planned coverage of the Lakers-New York game on Feb. 1 but picked up the Oklahoma City-Lakers game March 1 that had been dropped by ABC.

The Thunder-Lakers tipoff time was rescheduled for 3:30 at Staples Center.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan

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