Players to the left, Owners to the right
Turn the television to ESPN and one of two things will occur.
1) A pundit will belittle the owners as if they have no power.
2) A player on the phone will spew bile-laden invective.
As you're watching this, remember that the media is a circus that loves to get you, I and every other thing on-fire over the future of the NBA.
Make no mistakes; there is no co-partnership.
The NBA is far from a hocus pocus candy land, where the players, owners and water boys drink peace tea and eat egalitarian cupcakes.
Money is rule numero uno.
How to make more money is rule numero dos.
Let this be a crash course into the nature of American capitalism and please, oh please remember, you nor I can say anything that has not been thought before.
So I extend this gracious reminder to you. When it is all said and done, go back to work, thank God for the simplistic nature of your job and kiss your boss (no, please don't do that).
Maloof bros or Tyreke Evans? Uhh...Ill take the Maloof's.
Look, let me make this lesson rather simple.
While the players boast in regards for their equal share of profiteering, one mighty rule of thumb is being ignored: they don't own anything.
Nor do the owners need to own them. This basic principle is the reason the "investor" is the only adequate owner of the league.
As much as the car lot owner loves to give bonuses to his hard-working car salesmen, at the end of the day, the cars on the lot, building and refrigerator full of Dom Perignon are all his.
With or without the salesmen, the dirty rich mogul remains steadfast in his own micro kingdom. Employees are not his life investments; they're leased, with a simple buy-out clause.
No matter how much the players try and weasel their way into unconditional contractual agreements, meaning long term contracts with no on-the-job stipulations, the owner will be the ultimate judges of that.
To put this into factual numbers, below is the list of the top 12 richest owners in the NBA. Let it be known that, for most of the NBA's economical Gods, the league is but a blight on their radar screen.
1. Paul Allen, Blazers, $16b
2. Mickey Arison, Heat, $5b
3. Bill Davidson, Pistons, $4b
4. Rick DeVos, Magic, $3.5b
5. Mark Cuban, Mavericks, $2.3b
6. Charles Dolan, Knicks, $2.3b
7. Glen Taylor, TWolves, $2.3b
8. Stan Kroenke, Nuggets, $2.1b
9. Herb Simon, Pacers, $1.2b
10. Dan Gilbert, Cavs, $1.1b
11. Michael Heisley, Grizzlies, $1b
12. Robert Johnson, Bobcats, $1b
The rest of the lower half average anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion. With that kind of net worth, walking from the investment of the NBA is not only possible, but damn well realistic.
The players, on the other hand, though extremely wealthy in their own right, average five to eight years in the NBA. Walking away is not only ludicrous, but without question idiotic, as they and their families are in need of league retirement, salaries, endorsements and further investments.
This is better put in visual terms.
If the NBA is a Monopoly board and the players are owners of league "properties," the owners are the overarching God of the game with the power to wrap it up and put it away.
Winning. Owners in a rout.
Since we have already discussed the basic economics of the NBA's hierarchical world, let us dive deepeer into the real and poignant facet of it .
The Stage: The bright shiny lights of the NBA world. The flutter of paparazzi bulbs, the interviews, media and the endorsements contracts. The bling.
With no NBA, mega-sized endorsements resemble a raisin. As fun as it is to fiddle with notions of basketball equality overseas, we cannot ignore the blaring fact that America alone has the greatest drawing power.
We are a culture fascinated with the celebrity; every which way we turn there's a "Snookie" in a string bikini tanned like a mocha bean being followed by a circus of fans.
Though Gatorade, Nike and Adidas are all corporations with power overseas, it is unlikely an NBA player would draw the hype he does here.
Soccer is still and always will be the world's most popular sport, and because of that, an overseas Kobe Bryant is but a second-class athletic citizen.
If the league decided to close up shop, Americans, fickle by nature, would move to the next great thing. Let us not forget the NFL, MLB, the return of the NHL and growing love of soccer are all entities who would love to claim that top spot.
No NBA stage means no showing, and no showing means no popularity.
Think of the greatest stars today: LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade, Durant and D-How. Now imagine them on some gravel basketball court in the middle of nowhere with but a few claps to adore them with.
Best they got? "Hot Sauce" in the And-One league or an entry level internship at Ford motors.
OK, the players have two facts unscrewed and a bit loose.
First fact is the idea that ALL NBA teams make loads and loads of cash.
Last year, only six teams boasted end of year surpluses. This means the majority of the owners are spending their own money on this high-profile hobby for the simple love of it.
But this is America.
We are a ruthless corporatist democracy, where money means power and power means utter rule. This type of business is not a game of patty cake, nor is it a five-year-old's birthday party where everyone gets to swing the bat at the pinata.
The pinata has already been busted, and all of its candy is in the pockets of the owners.
And they want more. Call it greed or any other dirty word, but reality would say they have the right to make more money and make it for nobody else but themselves. Their love of the sport is one thing, but love of the sport with a higher economical ceiling is another.
For this reason alone, the NBA is prime for an NFL-like contract built around on-the-job stipulations. Players will return to "employee" status where everyday at work matters. Coming to practice, performance, positive press and lack of injuries will all be the gauntlet of hoops to jump through.
Once the player has successfully jumped through all those hoops, a bonus structure will begin to enhance their base salary. The new deal creates incentives, which therefore enhances performance and gives the fan the better basketball experience.
But most importantly it protects the player with the highest work ethic. This weeds out cancerous guaranteed contracts crippling organizations (see Jamaal Tinsley) and promotes the player who shows up to work ready to excel.
Owners 3, Players 0. Game.
We live in America because of its many freedoms. Our diverse fabric is a mecca of ideals and cultures that culminates into a beautifully complex society.
This complexity protects the individual and creates a fair and equal playing ground for the larger populous. All of us are given ways to thrive and continue our lives in the direction we wish to project them.
Economics are the country's driving force, our blood flow. Our bullion is the way by which we govern trade, allowing each specialist to levy their niche worth.
Some people have a higher niche worth. That is where our freedoms become cloudy, and at times, we can feel the nation's injustices.
But the roles owners play in the greater picture is immense. Our culture thrives on the NBA, and the league offers our American version of gladiators a life of athletics.
Punishing the owners for their wealth is overly idealistic and backwards. Though I like you, see the owners as the "establishment," the reality is that there is no league without their deep pockets.
For this, we should be grateful. No, the owners are not our friends, and no, they are not our countries version of Santa Claus. But they are purely American in every way and should not be denigrated for being so.
For the fans, as always, we have been caught in the middle of another soap opera. Unfortunately, we always play third fiddle in this relationship, and for that, we have the right to be angry.
Yet at least our office space is out of the "Snookie" spotlight and we've got our Nerf hoop at home, still and ready, waiting to be dominated.