The Las Vegas Aces celebrate their 2023 WNBA championship

The Las Vegas Aces celebrate their 2023 WNBA championship

The two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces are the most valuable team in the WNBA, according to data published by Sportico on Tuesday, June 18.

Sportico values the Aces at $140 million after the team pulled in an estimated $17.8 million in revenue in 2023.

The Aces edged out the Seattle Storm ($135 million) and New York Liberty ($130 million), who were the second- and third-most valuable teams respectively.

Sportico didn’t just pull these numbers out of the air. The site says it spoke to more than 30 people from around the W, trading “candor for anonymity with bankers, investors, owners and team executives.”

It ultimately revealed, unsurprisingly, that the team that wins the most, is worth the most.

Why the Las Vegas Aces Are So Valuable

Since Mark and Carol Davis purchased the franchise in 2021, its ownership group has made the Aces the gold standard of what it means to be a WNBA team.

The Davis family bought the Aces for only $2 million in a now-infamous sale from now-infamous Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff at MGM. At that point, Davis transformed the franchise, which had won 23 total games in the previous three years.

It started by assembling talent. The franchise had already drafted the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in Kelsey Plum and national champion A’ja Wilson. Davis then hired Becky Hammon at a time when she was a popular candidate to become the first woman to be head coach of an NBA team. He also hired Nikki Fargas to serve as team president after head coaching stints at UCLA and LSU.

Then came a $40 million practice facility — the first-ever built solely for a WNBA team. The timing proved serendipitous. The facility broke ground in 2021, shortly after the NCAA’s weight room debacle in the tournament bubble that March. The public had taken increased attention in gender equity in sports, particularly around investment in facilities, and Davis had made it clear that he was willing to put money into the Aces’ sustained success.

The Aces also added Chelsea Gray in 2021 and Candace Parker in 2023 while keeping the core of Plum, Wilson, and Jackie Young around.

In 2023, NFL legend Tom Brady became a minority owner of the team, which went on to win its second WNBA title in a row.

As the excitement built around the Aces, so did attendance. The team averaged a paltry 2,943 fans in a COVID-influenced 2021 season, which increased to 5,607 the next year. In 2023, they drew 9,551, representing a 70% increase in attendance from the year before.

The 2024 Aces have struggled on the court but became the first team in WNBA history to sell out their allotment of season tickets for the season.

Seattle Has Weathered the Storm

The Davises aren’t the only owners who are reaping the benefits of investing in their WNBA teams. The Storm are the second-most-valuable team in the league, despite winning only 11 games last year. While their historical success (four WNBA championships) certainly matters, the stars from their best era, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, are gone.

Still, the team ranked third in average attendance last year (8,929). Even with such a miserable 2023 on the court, they have increased attendance to over 10,000 per game this year.

The Storm opened their $64 million practice facility before the season, which helped attract stars like Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike. As of June 18, the Storm are 9-5 overall, giving them the second-best record in the Western Conference.

The Liberty Were Saved, then Soared

It’s hard to imagine that a few years ago, the New York Liberty were on the brink of ruin. Forced out of their original home of Madison Square Garden by ownership that did not prioritize the club, New York floundered, playing its home games at Westchester County Center, home of the Knicks’ G-League team.

As the Liberty strung together losing seasons, Brooklyn Nets owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai bought the team with plans to relocate them to the Nets’ home of Barclays Center.

The pandemic delayed the move, but eventually that’s what happened, with 2020 No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu as the main draw. The team slowly improved, but it wasn’t until the 2023 offseason that their fortunes really turned. The Liberty lured Stewart away from Seattle, Courtney Vandersloot from Chicago, and brought in Jonquel Jones, who requested a trade to the Liberty.

The Liberty returned to the WNBA Finals in 2023 and have the best record in the league in 2024.

With the WNBA salary cap greatly restricting what teams can offer players, the Liberty had to turn to other methods to bring in such high-level talent. Stewart, who has long been an advocate for WNBA player rights, especially appreciated that the Tsai family treats Liberty players as equals to their peers on the Nets. Their locker rooms are nearly identical and every perk that Nets players have available to them, Liberty players have as well.

Just as importantly, the team plays at the 17,000-seat Barclays Center. Like the Aces, their attendance has increased steadily as well. The Liberty averaged 5,326 in 2022, 7,776 last year, and 12,586 so far in 2024.