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Mad About Missing NBA Games? Blame The Owners

In A War Over Money, The Fans Lose

The system had to change. In every business, to survive you have to make money and turn a profit; I know, not exactly breaking news. If 22 NBA teams really lost money, some think that number could be high, then major changes need to be made to the culture and business practices of the NBA. Even if the number was smaller, say 12, then changes would still need to be made to keep up with other leagues that seem to be printing money by comparison. Remember this whenever you read a story about the NBA lockout or any other potential lockout/strike in sports; it's always all about the money. Of course there are other concerns and problems to be worked out, but it's amazing how fast those pieces fall into place once the financial pie is settled. See the recent NFL lockout for an example.

So how far apart are they financially? David Stern claims that the league lost roughly $300 million dollars last season; in the players latest proposal they suggested cutting their BRI (Basketball Related Income) from the 57% in the previous CBAto 53%. That would make up about $200 million dollars a year, but still come up well short of what the owners need to make a profit. To get this deal done, the players will probably need to come down to about a 50/50 split, but they feel that they've already given enough according to Derek Fisher. On the other side, the owners are telling anyone who will listen that they've already given ground on rolling back current contracts, putting in an NFL style hard-cap, and getting rid of guaranteed contracts. Now when you read that, it's easy to side with the owners on the basis of them seemingly being the only ones willing to compromise. However, those so-called demands were never a deal breaker, they were simply a bargaining ploy. Would the owners like to have all of those things? Sure, but the main purpose was to make the owners seem reasonable in their negotiations when they "gave in" on those topics. Essentially, a PR move. So ignore those issues and focus just on the revenue split or BRI. When negotiations began, the owners said they wanted to give the players 46% of the BRI while the players were asking to keep their share at 57%. Currently the owners have budged up to 47% while the players have come down to 53%; now tell me who is compromising more in these negotiations? With every 1 percent reported to relate to about 40 million dollars, the players have agreed to budge 160 million to the owners 40 million. When you hear the owners saying they've compromised more, know that's the PR machine working, that's not factual.

With that being said, the owners did lose money and with the ability to hold out longer, will eventually get what they want. The NBA does need to profitable to survive so I support the owners right to get a better deal for themselves. Where my disappointment comes in, is with the way they've handled it. The reason the NBA isn't profitable is not because of "greedy" players like they hope you believe, it's because the owners themselves have made stupid moves and are now in the position of having to protect themselves against themselves. The owners are in a bad spot because they overpaid for franchises, took on too much debt to buy the teams, and have handed out bad contracts to stiffs like Darko and Marko Jaric. When the reality that they screwed up hit them in the face, they decided to steamroll the players and make more money off of their backs. Their approach so far has been to penalize the players for the mistakes the owners have made. Any league like this is a partnership, the players and owners have to share the ups and downs, and right now the owners don't seem willing to do that.

Looking ahead, the pre-season is done, and my guess is the first 2 weeks of the season are about 99% dead with Stern's recent threats. I don't believe the season will be canceled, just like the NFL, when both sides start losing game money and are really pushed against the wall, a deal will get done out of desperation. I'm expecting to watch my first NBA game this season in January. Bottom line though, no matter who's fault it is, the fans lose.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.