When the NBA made a movement for basketball to become a more global game, I don’t think this is what it had in mind. With players leaving the States by the dozens, the NBA loses a little leverage at the lockout's negotiating table.
Players of all salaries and skill sets are set to take their careers elsewhere. Kobe Bryant has recently been offered $6.7 million to play for one of his childhood teams in Italy. A shortened contract could pay out to over one million dollars per home game.
Deron Williams got the movement started this summer by accepting to play for Besiktas in Turkey. Kevin Durant is reportedly in the early stages of negotiations with the same team. Both Williams’ and Bryant’s contracts include an opt-out clause if NBA action resumes, and it can be assumed Durant’s would as well.
On the other hand, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler, figured to be two of the most sought-after free agents, have both have agreed to play in China without an opt-out clause.
From stars to scrubs, an incredible 58 players have agreed to play overseas. Dozens more are considering the same move. Along with Bryant, Dwyane Wade has explored his options, as have Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Paul. Anthony and Paul have even hinted that China could be a destination, where an opt-out clause would not be included.
In fact, far more players are signed to or considering playing overseas than are not. Most of the players who have committed to the NBA are a mixture of superstars with other sources of income (endorsements), like LeBron James and Chris Bosh, high-profile rookies (Kyrie Irving, Jimmer Fredette) and veterans near the end of the line (Brad Miller, Jeff Foster) that have little to gain by playing elsewhere. Then again, there was a time when it seemed LeBron James would stay in Cleveland for his hole career. Things change.
Would you watch NBA players in a European uniform?
Outside of the European and Asian exodus, many of the NBA’s biggest stars are taking part in pseudo All-Star games and street ball. When Kevin Durant dropped 66 points at Rucker Park, he cemented himself in street ball lore with the likes of Earl “the Pearl” Monroe. Bryant, Durant, and John Wall have all made memorable appearances in the Drew League, out of Los Angeles.
Now, James, Bosh and Wade are said to be hosting a lockout All-Star game. The event will include Paul, Anthony, Durant, Wall, Stoudemire, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook. The event can only be seen as a win-win for the players. They get to show the fans they are not all about the money, while simultaneously showing the owners, “we don’t need you, the fans will follow us anywhere.” Plus, all proceeds go to charity, so they are generating some serious public relations good will.
This is not like the NFL lockout, where the issues were relatively minor and the players had no other options. The NBA lockout is much more complex. Owners are reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. To make matters worse, there is a discrepancy in what the players’ association believes the owner have lost, also ranging in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Unlike the last lockout in 1998, the owners have lost their most powerful bargaining chip: being the only game in town. Players ran out of money alarmingly fast and needed the NBA.
The good new is, if you love basketball for basketball and just want to see your favorite players play, you likely will be able to do that in some capacity.
The bad news: Those who love the every-night, prime-time pace of the NBA could be without it much longer than last time.
Sit back, enjoy the NFL season and hope the lockout ends before the Super Bowl. If not, we the fans may have to take matters into our own hands.