The NBA lockout dribbles on at an agonizing pace. It’s like a bad dream where Marko Jaric and Jason Kapono are taking the ball up the floor: Everything’s in slow motion and you’re just waiting for the inevitable half-court violation.
Who knew that we’d continue to see pump fakes, last-second shots and sideline strategies even when the gyms were empty? The most recent desperation treys have clanged off the rim, and now the NBA lockout has placed the 2011-2012 season in jeopardy.
For his part David Stern says it’s the players’, or better yet, the agents’ fault. He contends that if they weren’t so greedy, then this silly lockout wouldn’t be necessary. Then everybody would be happy. The union says it’s the owners’ fault.
Fans have a tough choice: side with the millionaire players or the multi-millionaire/billionaire owners. Many choose the owners: They lay out the capital to ‘sell’ the brand (aka, ‘the team’). And the brand’s all-important, right?
Wilt, Larry, Magic, Michael and Kobe are great, but we cheer for the team. The players are replaceable. And in these economic times, it’s difficult to sympathize with the average ballplayer, who made more than $5 million last season. But we don’t hear the other side, do we?
David Stern’s contract reportedly rivals Kobe’s contract. NBA franchise values have jumped $162 million on average since 2000. And, if Stern has his way, the players’ take of the basketball related income (BRI) will be reduced from 57 percent to 40 percent.
That 17 percent drop means $750 million in the owners’ pockets eventually. It also means that franchise price tags could jump as much as 30 percent because there’s virtually no risk involved in owning.
I don’t know about you but this raises questions for me. Is one season really that important? We know from previous lockouts and strikes that life continues. Sometimes there are even replacements—not players, but replacement sports, games and pastimes. Who can forget the NHL lockout opening the door for competitive darts and poker?
Well, ask Steve Nash if this season matters. Or Tim Duncan. These guys are pretty long in tooth to lose a season. How about 15-year vet and union pres Derek Fisher, who, incidentally, is also a vet of the last ‘labour action’? But they all chose to be in this position. Undoubtedly they miss playing. We miss seeing them play, but we had no choice.
Is there a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side in the NBA lockout? Both sides are standing on principle. The future of the game is in the crosshairs (just ask any player: this is as much for the Kyries and the Kembas and the Jimmers as it is for themselves).
And, of course, they’re risking a great deal of money as well. The owners make it by marketing the team (‘Come see your Celtics beat the hated Lakers!’); the players make it by representing and promoting the team (remember Antoine Walker as ‘employee No. 8’?).
They make millions doing it, too. They’ll come back eventually, and when they do we’ll present them with the loving cup, wag our fingers at them and make them promise not to do it again. Until then we wait, hoping they’ll come to their senses.
Will fans benefit from the NBA lockout? Short answer: no. Long answer: possibly. They won’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. There are profits at stake: It’s like having a license to print money. Careers are at stake: For some players hoops is all they’ll have, now or ever. It’s their ticket to a fabulous lifestyle.
Glory is at stake: Most of you could name dozens, maybe even hundreds, of players off the top of your head. They live on because they performed memorably. Major League Baseball booted it in ’94 when they sacrificed the World Series.
It’s taken years to win fans back and the residual effect is still noticeable. Olive branches, such as slashing ticket prices, are sometimes short-term concessions to fans whose noses are out of joint.
It’s probably overly cynical, but eventually the cycle will begin again. MLB’s recent glad-handing-all-the-way-around, pat-each-other-on-the-back, quick-as-you-please agreement (before the deadline) is the exception. But there are long-term benefits for fans as well, such as greater competitiveness and a better all-round ‘product.’
So, who loses because of the NBA lockout? In the short term the players are missing their enormous pay cheques. But most will return. The owners are missing all the revenue that the brand (the team!) generates, as well. But they’ll take the locks off the gym doors someday.
Fans are losing, too. We enjoy watching basketball, and it’s conspicuous by its absence. It’s the helplessness of the fan’s position that makes the waiting tough. I don’t know about you, but I’m dying to see my team on the floor again. Soon. Will this lockout mean a better NBA when play resumes? You’ll be the best judge of that.