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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Warriors Missing Playoffs Has Big-Money Consequences

  • Golden State can hit nine-figure revenues from playoff ticket sales.
  • The team also draws major TV audiences for the NBA.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors’ season ended Tuesday night as they fell to the Kings 118-94 in a play-in game. The Kings will face the Pelicans Friday for the right to face the No. 1 seed Thunder in the playoffs.

While it wasn’t expected that the Warriors would shock the gauntlet that is the Western Conference, it’s a disappointing way to go for the dimmed dynasty, from both a basketball and financial standpoint. Any Warriors playoff run is an enormous profit engine, both for the team and the league. And that tap getting turned off comes just as the Warriors have huge bills coming due.

The Warriors are the league’s most valuable franchise, sitting at $7.7 billion. The team makes more than $4 million in ticket sales with each regular season game (about a million dollars more than the next highest teams), and surpassed $100 million during the run to the 2022 Finals before the NBA took its piece (roughly double their championship opponent, the Boston Celtics, who are not exactly lacking a loyal fanbase), Sportico reported. Home playoff revenue sat at roughly $130 million in 2016, $95 million in 2017, and $130 million in 2018, according to The Athletic.

With last night’s game in Sacramento, the Warriors won’t even get one home playoff game for only the third time in the past 12 seasons.

This loss of revenue is hitting at the same time as massive payouts will be heading out the door. The Warriors have the most expensive roster in the league, and broke a record at the start of the season for having the biggest payroll in NBA history with $208.2 million, according to Forbes. A huge luxury tax payment is coming in June, with Spotrac currently projecting their tax bill at more than $176 million. Some offseason maneuvering last year means that they may avoid the tax entirely in 2024-25 after huge bills the last two years; Klay Thompson, who makes $43.2 million annually and went scoreless in Tuesday’s game, will enter free agency this offseason.

The Warriors’ early exit is also unfortunate for the NBA, which has historically gotten a ratings boost from the team’s runs.

Before the Lakers’ win and the Warriors’ loss, there was a possibility the two could meet again in the Play-In Tournament, after their 2021 play-in matchup averaged 5.62 million viewers. Last season, the Warriors and Kings drew the biggest first-round audience in 21 years with 7.5 million viewers on ABC. Golden State advanced to play the Lakers, and drew 7.4 million viewers in Game 1—the most-watched West semifinal game ever on cable, and the most-watched conference semifinal game in more than a decade. Finals viewership dipped without the Warriors between their championship berths in 2019 and 2022.

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