The NBA Lockout – A Letter of Anger

A month ago I opened up an article trying to explain the NBA lockout by saying:

“While the matter at hand is complicated, the reason for the lockout is simple: The owners are reporting that they are annually losing in excess of 300 million dollars.”

On Monday, upon news that the NBA Player’s Union has disbanded in an effort to be able to sue the National Basketball Association, I’m reminded that no matter this large can ever be simple.

In the aftermath, in the face of what is increasingly likely a lost season, one question keeps coming up: What side do you blame? My answer is easy:

Everyone. I’m mad at literally every single person involved in this entire process. 

To bring you up to speed, my original statement does hold some water: This lockout – that term is important to remember as it is the employer who is not letting the employee work – is over what is perceived as an unequal split in revenue that resulted in reported loss of over 300 million dollars by the NBA owners.

I find it necessary to input here two things about the reported “losses”

  1. Again link to the article by Malcom Gladwell who points out that while these owners may be taking “losses” on the team, but capitalizing on the presence of a Professional basketball team in other business ventures such as parking lots, nearby restaurants, etc.
  2. Remind you of the chief argument from the players side: The now famous quote from Etan Thomas “If the owners want to be businessmen, they should be accountable for bad decisions.” Some of these owners are failing in business 101, they’re outspending what they’re guaranteed back in.
  •  For example, one of the hardest lined owners is Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats are scheduled to pay 47 million dollars in player contacts. The top 4 highest contracts are: Corey Maggette: 10 mil, Boris Diaw 9 mil, Tyrus Thomas 7.5, Desagna Diop 7 mil. That’s not a system issue, that’s an owner paying entirely too much money to players who couldn’t possibly generate that money back in revenue in a small market that’s already once failed to support an NBA team. 

Throughout negotiations the focus of the lockout has been on a figure known as BRI ( Basketball Related Income). Under the previous system that split was at a 57 – 43% split in favor of the NBA Players.

This number was negotiated down, and publicly accepted by the players union to a 50-50 split – pending system tweaks – that would equate to a 330 million dollar give back from the players to the union. That number would exceed the owner’s reported losses.

One more thing about those reported “losses”:  No NBA team has ever been sold for less than what it was acquired for. In realty terms, this concession by the players means that the owners bought a house and the players agreed to pay the price to maintain it.

With the 50/50 BRI split agreed to, all we needed to do was the owners to concede to what the Player’s union considered “minor tweaks” on system issues. The owners wrote a proposal, didn’t concede any of the real system issues the players had been looking for, so the player’s went into a meeting, reviewed the proposal, decided they had been bullied too long, and came out with a stick of dynamite.

Blow it up. Shut this down. Kaboom.

That’d be awesome if this was a movie starring the Rock. But it’s not. This is a labor dispute: We’re taking it to the courts against a one in a kind business. And if the NFL Labor negotiations showed us anything it’s that the player’s union is probably not going to get a better offer. If anything, the players will be lucky to get an equal one.

They didn’t take the chance, with every news outlet covering their press conference to say “Hey, we’re close and I think we’d accept this, but we need these three things in order to make a deal” to FOR ONCE in this five month negotiation send the PR tetherball the other way. They were finally given an ounce of leverage and rather than use it they opted to come out with duct tape road flares on their sides and screamed out ‘bomb.’

Now we’re facing losing a season.

And what for? Because a group of millionaires got tired of being bullied by billionaires, the millionaires threw logic out the door and let their competitive spirits take over.

And that’s where we’re at now:

Millions are going to be deprived one year the varying joy that the National Basketball Association presents because a group of millionaires and a group of billionaires are caught in a pissing contest.

We’re out of the NBA because two groups of incredibly wealthy groups of people are fighting over money that they shouldn’t possibly be able to use in six lifetimes. At least half a season because the owners felt like that 20 mediocre players should make 5.1 million dollars a season and the players thought they should be able ot make 5.3

People like myself who spend breakfast reading TrueHoop, eat lunch with the guys at the TheBasketballJones, spend dinner watching the east coast games and lie about our whereabouts on Friday nights if there’s a good west coast game have a completely vacant schedule because the player’s association was tired of getting bullied. We’re arguably out the last great seasons of Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Boston’s ‘Big Three’ because the players association decided rather to act logically, the players wanted to show off their grape fruits and take a small battle in this enormous war, no matter how illogical the decision to win that battle may be.

Ballboys, ushers, ticket salesman, beer guys are out of their livelihood. Searching for a paycheck because the NBA owners couldn’t simply win by 99 points, they had to make it a cool 100. Sports bar owners, restaurant owners and other services that rely on the NBA will be financially paralyzed because the NBA owners wouldn’t throw the players a bone and let them ‘have one’ to take home to their families.

And the worst part is that there’s really nothing we can do. I’d encourage you to sign the very reasonable petition on NBA Fanifesto, but realistically, even the greatest effort by them and by us will do nothing.

We’re the ones who are locked out – while we wait for two groups to solve a labor issue that has surpassed financial reasoning and logic. We can do nothing but sit here, watch Marcel the Shell With Shoes on Pt 2 on loop, and wait for the world’s greatest sport to return.

One comment

  1. I’d like to add something that shows that I read the piece. I’d like to show you that I feel the same about the whole lockout biz. I’d like to say that this is a great piece.

    But I’m just going to leave it at: Marcel, is, awesome.

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