Over the last twenty years, basketball has cemented itself as one of the most popular sports around the globe. The NBA has the highest social media engagement in the world, with a larger following than the MLB, NFL, and NHL combined.
Whether you’re in the largest or smallest NBA market, the ties the fans have with their franchises are one of the strongest in sports.
The popularity of NBA teams comes down to star power.
Out of every major professional sport, the most valuable and popular team on the planet is the Los Angeles Lakers, who have boasted some of the most recognizable and marketable stars of the last 25 years.
But for smaller market NBA teams, popularity comes down to drafting smart, legacy in the community, and staying relevant.
Taking into account market size, stadium capacity, and franchise value, let’s rank the smallest market NBA teams.
Table of Contents
- 1.) New Orleans Pelicans
- 2.) Memphis Grizzlies
- 3.) Oklahoma City Thunder
- 4.) Indiana Pacers
- 5.) Utah Jazz
- Honorable Mentions
1.) New Orleans Pelicans
Market Size: 1,559,000 (30th of 30)
Stadium Capacity: 16,867 (29th of 30)
Franchise Value: $1.6 billion, operating income of $94 Million (30th of 30)
By any metric, the Pelicans are the smallest market team in the entire NBA. Out of all 30 teams, New Orleans has both the lowest franchise value and market size in the league.
But with the recent signings of ascending superstar Zion Williamson, and the extension of undrafted star Jose Alvarado, don’t expect the Pelicans to stay in the bottom spot for too long.
2.) Memphis Grizzlies
Market Size: 1,604,000 (29th of 30)
Stadium Capacity: 18,119 (22nd of 30)
Franchise Value: $1.65 billion, operating income of $107 million (29th of 30)
Historically, the Grizzlies have always fallen toward the bottom of the league in overall value, but it only takes one player to vault a team into the upper echelon.
Take the Golden State Warriors, for instance. Before Stephen Curry, the Warriors as a franchise were worth around 450 million dollars. Now? Over four billion.
The Grizzlies may have found their own Curry in superstar Ja Morant. And as his star power rises, so will the Grizzlies franchise.
3.) Oklahoma City Thunder
Market Size: 1,737,00 (28th of 30)
Stadium Capacity:18,203 (21st of 30)
Franchise Value: $1.875 billion, operating income $129 million (24th of 30)
Slotted in the bottom three of the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the youngest club on this list. With a franchise less than twenty years old, the Thunder are looking to build their value with rookies and young players.
Over the next few years, the Thunder have 38 total draft picks, giving them the flexibility to grow.
4.) Indiana Pacers
Market Size: 2,642,000 (24th of 30)
Stadium Capacity: 17,923 (25th of 30)
Franchise Value: $1.8 Billion, operating income $65 million (26th of 30)
Basketball in the Hoosier state is a renowned pastime, and the state’s most popular sport, giving the Indiana Pacers one of the strongest home bases in the country, despite their small market.
Even without the championship hardware, the fans in Indiana are passionate about this team and will always show their support.
5.) Utah Jazz
Market Size: 2,505,000 (25th of 30)
Stadium Capacity: 18,303 (20th of 30)
Franchise Value: $2.025 Billion, operating income of$58 million (19th of 30)
Owner of the Utah Jazz, tech mogul Ryan Smith, maybe in denial about the Jazz’s ranking on this list.
When asked about Utah as a market, Smith gave this quote: “We’re really not a small market. If you look at the growth of Utah, I think we’re a top ten market in the league when it comes to what we can support.”
Despite the owner’s opinion, the numbers don’t back up the sentiment. But it’s an encouraging look into the future for Jazz fans.
Let’s take a look at a few small market squads that didn’t quite crack the top 5.
Market Size: 2,255,000 (26th of 30)
Stadium Capacity: 18,303 (28th of 30)
Franchise Value: $2.3 Billion dollars, operating income of $51 million (15th of 30)
If we were making this list even a year ago, Milwaukee would be firmly on the list.
While having a bottom-five market and stadium, the overall worth of the Bucks in the last two years has skyrocketed, thanks to the on-the-court dominance of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Market Size: 3,462,000 (21st of 30)
Stadium Capacity: 19,077 (14th of 30)
Franchise Value: $1.7 Billion, operating income of $94 million (24th of 30)
Market Size: 4,667,000 (15th of 30)
Stadium Capacity: 19,356 (11th of 30)
Franchise Value: $1.67 billion, operating income of $87 Million (28th of 30)
More from this series:
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