NBA Lockout: Greed Rules the Day

David SpohnCorrespondent INovember 15, 2011

The inability of these two to close a deal likely cost millions of basketball fans the 2011-12 NBA season.
The inability of these two to close a deal likely cost millions of basketball fans the 2011-12 NBA season.Brian Bahr/Getty Images

In the weeks and months following the Dallas Mavericks' unexpectedly being crowned champions of the basketball world, sports fans passionate and casual alike watched the NFL lockout get settled in a timely enough fashion to where not a single meaningful game was missed.

It was widely assumed that the NBA's lockout would be of the same ilk. They'd iron out their issues, they certainly wouldn't miss any games, they'd build on the fantastic ratings and fan support that they've been coddling since the last lockout in 1998.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

The NFL lockout was settled in a timely fashion because a group of 32 owners, a union representing greater than 1,700 players and a commissioner were hellbent on three things: getting a fair deal, not missing any games and the fans.

The NBA lockout hasn't been settled in a timely fashion because a group of 30 owners can't control themselves when it comes to guaranteeing role players like Travis Outlaw and Corey Maggette outrageous sums of money over several years that should be reserved for borderline All-Star caliber players.

It hasn't been settled because of a group of 450 active NBA players, who have grown accustomed to average salaries that now rival that of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, have been spoiled by an unrivaled 57 percent of all basketball-related income in recent seasons and are now being asked to take a considerable haircut in salary despite tremendous league wide growth.

It hasn't been settled because there's a commissioner who's more concerned with securing his own legacy than giving the people who ultimately pay his inflated salary, the fans, what they want.

He has spent the last several weeks issuing phony deadlines and ultimatums to scare the Player's Association into accepting a deal. He has used all of his multimedia platforms (including his own television network NBA TV—how's that for a conflict of interest) to voice the opinion that he is the good guy and his owners are negotiating in good faith.

In all the interviews the commissioner has done since the lockout began July 1, not once have I heard a sincere apology or any trace of remorse toward the suffering fans.

The last thing David Stern wants on his résumé is an entire missed NBA season.
The last thing David Stern wants on his résumé is an entire missed NBA season.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

There are so many questions that demand answers. Why did the two sides essentially take the entire summer off from negotiations and didn't really begin talking until October? Why are the owners so steadfast in their demand for a 50 percent or less cut for the players after years of giving them over 55 percent?

If the NBA claims they lost $300 million last year, and the players agreed to give that back and then some in their 7 percent cut of BRI, why aren't we playing basketball? Why wasn't the owner's final proposal at least been put to a vote to the NBA players instead of being nixed by 30 player reprepsentatives?

The common fan will inevitably blame the players, playing right into Stern's hand. They'll relate the player/owner relationship to their real life employee/boss situation. The problem is, people are still going to shop at the mall whether or not John Smith works there. People will not go to see the Cleveland Cavaliers if LeBron James doesn't play there.

The NBA owners that have been so demanding and adamant for change are the same ones who witnessed the small-market Green Bay Packers hoist a championship and salivate for the same opportunity themselves in their respective sport.

Conversely, owners in Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, New York, Chicago and Miami are very content with the way the league is and has been for decades—a system where the Charlottes, Minnesotas, Sacramentos, Portlands, Utahs, Milwaukees, etc. are in the same league but aren't realistically playing for a championship, as evidenced by the fact that only nine different franchises have won it all in the last 31 NBA seasons.

The divide amongst the NBA owners came this offseason when small-market owners yearned for an opportunity to be competitive and profitable just like the big markets. The NBA does institute a revenue sharing system with their lucrative national television deals, but individual franchises are able to secure their own local television deals.

Sharing that revenue stream would certainly create a level playing field, but good luck getting the Dr. Jerry Busses of the world to fork over a percentage of his astronomical TV contract to some small-market owner who can barely rub two nickels together.

People pay to see LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki play basketball. They do not pay to see you sell televisions at Best Buy.
People pay to see LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki play basketball. They do not pay to see you sell televisions at Best Buy.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The goal all along for some owners, including multiple small-market owners who are annually in the red financially, was to cancel the 2011-12 season altogether. It was precisely the type of move that the NHL needed in 2004-05 in order to get salaries back into a realistic stratosphere. These owners pushed for lowballing the Player's Association and hoping that they wouldn't take said deal.

The hope was that the players would come back begging for 47 percent of BRI after missing one full year of salary. Imagine trying to barter with somebody who absolutely doesn't want a resolution. Not exactly the "good faith negotiating" that David Stern commonly has referred to. 

The owners curbed the revenue sharing debate for now and instead focused their crosshairs directly on the players' bloated salaries. A season ago, the Player's Association were guaranteed 57 percent of all basketball related income. That percentage was negotiated and agreed upon by the owners in 2005. When CBA talks began this offseason, the owners' starting point curiously was 47 percent. This after a year that saw tremendous ratings and colossal fan interest.

Despite all that, reportedly the Player's Association agreed to go as low as a 50/50 BRI split but the owners wouldn't budge on several system issues.

Two weeks ago a deal was so close that Player's Association Director Billy Hunter said the negotiations were "on the two-yard line." How and why talks broke off from there we'll never know.

That the players and owners would willingly throw away a season they can never get back over a few percentage points of revenue can only be attributed to one thing: Greed. The players deserve their fair share of blame, as do the owners. However, there is only one group to truly feel sympathy for. The fans.