Basketball in Kentucky borderlines on religion as the state does not have any professional teams. The fanbases are split between the University of Kentucky and Louisville as both teams have won a national title since 2010. The Cardinals were the most profitable team in college basketball in 2018, when they made more of a profit than three NBA teams, according to the Score.
Louisville had a profit of $23 million in 2018, which was a better profit than the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Charlotte Hornets. According to Forbes, the Cavaliers are the only team in the NBA that lost money in 2018 as they lost $13 million. The loss of Lebron James definitely hurt the Cavaliers as his presence alone sold out arenas and gave the team national exposure.
The Hornets are struggling to make the playoffs and rarely play a nationally televised game, so their low-profit numbers are not that surprising. The Thunder have two of the league’s top 15 players in Russell Westbrook and Paul George, so their $10 million profit is surprising. They are on national television almost every week as George and Westbrook are two of the more popular players in the NBA.
Louisville’s 2018 profit is actually down from its three year average of $30.4 million due to the NCAA corruption scandal in 2017. The Cardinals’ three-year average would make them more profitable than six NBA teams. The Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans are the three teams that failed to generate $30 million profit in 2018. The Bucks are a little perplexing as they have the best record in the NBA at 50-17 and one of the top players in the NBA in Giannis Antentokoumpo.
While the Pelicans have been a middling team in the NBA, they do have one of the league’s top players in Anthony Davis. The Grizzlies are currently in rebuilding mode as they traded one of their best players in Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors before the trade deadline.
Louisville missed out on the NCAA Tournament in 2018, which could be part of the reason for the drop in profits. The Cardinals are going to return to the tournament in 2019 so they could have a higher profit in 2019 than they did in 2018.