As the NBA returns, its boardroom is just as entertaining as the on-court product

A new basketball season starts tonight and the business storylines are juicy.

This basketball season, starting tonight, has something for everyone, even the deeply apathetic:

Basketball players Kevin Durant and Devin Booker wear black Phoenix Suns uniforms with stacks of $100 bills surrounding them.
  • Denver’s Nikola Jokic — arguably the league’s best player — just sees basketball as his day job, often expressing a desire to go home like the rest of us.

Looking for more to follow? Perhaps the NBA’s palace intrigue will do the trick. There are a lot of off-the-court machinations behind a $10B+ league. To pique your interest on the business side:

  • More NBA players make $30m+/year in guaranteed compensation than CEOs of S&P 500 companies.
  • The NBA’s 10 highest-paid players will pocket a combined ~$746m this year.
  • The average franchise is now worth $2.86B.

On board yet?

Great. Welcome! Here are a few off-court storylines worth a look:

  • Foreign investment: The league now allows sovereign wealth funds to buy in, with Qatar already infusing further cash. The league is targeting the UAE and Saudi Arabia next.
  • TV deals: The NBA’s current broadcast partners are Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery — but Amazon, Apple, Google, and maybe even Netflix are expected to make offers in this next round. “Lucrative” will understate what comes next — the NBA is reportedly seeking $50B-$75B.
  • Talent management: The game’s been good to its top players, but the league wants more in return; its new rules aim to get stars taking fewer games off to rest. It’s a gamble: the NBA is protecting one investment, their top-dollar TV show, while risking another — the longevity and goodwill of its most marketable assets.
  • Shoe wars heat up: Nike still runs the hardwood, but the likes of Reebok and New Balance are investing more in the game. The latest entrant is Skechers, reportedly asserting itself by signing reigning league MVP Joel Embiid.

A bonus plot to follow: Will this be the year when gambling drama around booray, the card game favored by players, spills into public view? It can get pretty serious, with one player claiming a team flight had $300k in betting cash on board.

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