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Forbes: Boston Celtics worth $2.5-billion

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Wyc Grousbeck’s investment gains another $300-million on top of last year’s Forbes estimate, quickly closing in on the Bulls for fourth most valuable NBA team.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Kyrie Irving deal seems to have had more than one effect on the Celtics, or maybe it was the Isaiah Thomas playoff run?

Either way, as the debate continues around that trade, the Celtics’ value is growing. Last year Forbes ranked Boston fifth among NBA franchises, worth $2.2-billion. This year, they’re up to 2.5. That’s only, and “only” is used loosely here, $100-million behind the Chicago Bulls.

This news comes as an enormous testament not only to the job the Celtics have done gaining league-wide hype and respect, national television appearances and captivating players who also win, but to the health of the league as well. When Wyc Grousbeck bought the Celtics in 2002, for $360-million, the investment came at some risk. Global growth under David Stern was only anticipated at the time.

Basketball held upside, thanks to relative labor peace and Stern’s plan, but Boston had exited the 1990s over one decade past the glory days of the 80s. An investment in the Cs also came without stadium ownership, negating the income of concessions, parking and anything else pertaining to the then-Fleet Center.

But despite the risks involved, Grousbeck’s ownership group thrived. The Celtics returned to the Finals in 2008 and 2010, while winning a championship. Boston remains the last non-LeBron James team to represent the eastern conference in the Finals. Between the Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen era (2008-2013), the Celts only took one season off in the lottery before returning to the playoffs 2015-2017. Then this summer, Irving and Gordon Hayward entered the fold. Al Horford signed in 2016, to that point the most significant signing in Celtics history.

Despite the historic relevancy of the Celts in building a fruitful league, this is the first time Boston is entering the fold of enormous profitability on the same level as the league’s most touted franchises in the largest markets: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Stability is also a massive deal here, with ownership angst hampering many franchises, Grousbeck’s group stands as a mainstay for almost two decades now. Danny Ainge isn’t going anywhere and Brad Stevens recently signed an extension and is a favorite to win coach of the year.

With all this in perspective, it’s funny to read this line from the New York Times report on the team’s sale:

“Some fans questioned the purchase price of $360 million.

’’I just don’t understand the economics,’’ said Stephen Doran, a lifelong fan who lives in suburban Hingham, Mass. ‘’If it’s just a fantasy thing, that ship passed a long time ago.’’”

16 years later, how’s $2.5-billion sound?