Sorting through the mess that may have ended the NBA season
With Monday's NBA news, it's increasingly unlikely that hoops fans will see their favorite stars this year.
November 15th, 2011
04:00 PM ET

Sorting through the mess that may have ended the NBA season

It appears to be a whine-off between warring clans of out-of-touch rich guys. With the NBA owners and players both opting for bombast over balance in their overtures, it’s difficult to see exactly what happened Monday afternoon.

This much is certain: The NBA offered players a deal and threatened that if they didn’t bite, the deal would get worse. The National Basketball Player’s Association didn’t vote on the proposal, disclaimed interest in its union (ending collective bargain negotiations) and is threatening to file a class-action antitrust suit against the NBA. The chance of a 2011-2012 season is now slimmer than your likelihood of hitting a full-court sky hook blindfolded.

This much is uncertain: everything.

The players and owners lose a great deal of control in the courts. The range of possibilities is now vast. It could be as simple as a judge ordering both sides back to the bargaining table, or it could result in billions in damages that owners say could bankrupt the league and play out in the courts for years.

Remember, this isn’t a strike, and the players will make the case in court that the league lockout prevented them from playing, i.e. earning a paycheck. They will be represented, in part, by David Boies, an attorney with some lofty antitrust credentials.

Move past NBA Commissioner David Stern’s talk of “nuclear winter” and the players’ and NBPA ex-executive director Billy Hunter’s chatter about strong-arming and ultimatums, and it appears both sides played hardball a little too well.

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said he was sick of the fiasco and alleged “both sides seem completely oblivious as to what’s happening in the real world.”

The real world, of course, is experiencing debt crises and other staggering blows to the economy. Unemployment and foreclosures are soaring. Protests abound, from the Middle East to Europe to Wall Street. It’s a tough time to curry empathy over six-digit game checks.

Negotiating for two years only to walk away from the table now is tantamount to “running 26 miles of a marathon and then sitting down on the pavement and refusing to complete the final two-tenths of a mile. For what amounts to pennies on the dollar, the owners and players are putting a basketball season in jeopardy … jobs, careers, reputations, legacies,” Wilbon host wrote Tuesday.

Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen also felt scapegoats could be found among both players and owners.

“They will continue to blame and complain about each other. But any person of reason, watching from afar, is going to recognize blame on both sides of the table,” Thomsen wrote. “You may feel more anger for the owners or for the players, but if you are a fan of basketball then the bottom line is that you are angry with everybody who had anything to do with the fact that there is $4 billion in revenue on the table and they can't even talk any longer about how to share it.”

The one positive for basketball fans is that the players disclaimed interest in the union as opposed to decertifying it. As Rick Bonell of the Charlotte Observer reported, the decertification process could have taken time, where the disclaimer process is pretty speedy and allows the NBA to approach Hunter with another deal. It also allows the players to sue the NBA immediately.

According to Stern, the union threatened to disband in February and Monday's move took owners by surprise because the players could have disbanded in the summer. Point guard Deron Williams, who is now playing in Turkey, tweeted, "This is why I said we should have done this in July bc at least the process would have been underway… even over!"

It’s difficult to say which issues ultimately dissolved the talks because the sides are keeping their playbooks close to their chests, but one widely reported bone of contention was the revenue split.

Last year, players took 57 percent of the overall revenue. The NBA would like to see the divide closer to 50-50, but players reportedly wouldn’t go lower than 51 percent, according to CBS’ Ken Berger, who reported the sides were as many as 20 percentage points apart at one point in negotiations.

The league says, under its proposal, the players could swing 51 percent of revenue depending on league growth, a claim the players denied. In their counteroffer, the players said 1 percent of their 51 percent would go to retired players’ pensions and medical benefits, something the union funded in the past.

Other thorny issues were the soft salary cap and the luxury tax. A hard cap does not allow teams to exceed the salary cap for any reason, where a soft cap allows teams to exceed the cap to retain a player under the so-called Larry Bird rule. The luxury tax kicks in when teams exceed the soft cap by a certain amount.

Last season, the salary cap was $58 million and the luxury tax level was $70.3 million. Teams were taxed a dollar for every dollar they exceeded the threshold. The luxury tax money is generally split up among teams who did not pay the tax. Reports indicate the league wanted to raise the tax, while the players wanted it lowered.

There were many other complicated matters being argued, including reductions in minimum salaries and some rookies’ salaries, year-round drug testing, an escrow account to reimburse owners for money spent over the 50-50 split, exceptions to the luxury tax for certain players and sign-and-trade deals for taxpaying teams.

But the bottom line is the two sides couldn’t figure out how to split their enormous pie. While it might not break anyone’s heart to see millionaire ball players out of work or billionaire team owners dusting their stadiums for a season, reports are starting to emerge that the ramifications will be more widespread.

In addition to the arena workers, concessionaires, janitors, ushers, parking lot attendants and merchandise hawkers – average folks who pull minimum wage or near it as the players and owners make bank – CNN reported last month that the lockout’s effect will ripple beyond arenas.

As Slam magazine reports foreign teams are recruiting the NBA's newly unemployed, restaurants and shops near American basketball stadiums are bracing for the worst, with employers and employees wondering how much revenue they can draw without crowds flocking to games 41 nights a year.

Fran Berger, CEO of Farm of Beverly Hills near Los Angeles’ Staples Center, said she would have to cut some workers’ hours, and several stadium employees told CNN they feared they might not get the 1,100 annual hours needed to qualify for health insurance.

There’s also the fans, who notoriously dislike lockouts. During the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season, television ratings and attendance dropped significantly and didn’t rebound for years.

The New York Times reported in a 1998 story that formerly hardcore fans were sickened by the squabbles between owners and players and had come to the conclusion that “basketball is disintegrating into a game of greed.”

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Filed under: Basketball • Courts • Lawsuit • NBA • Sports
soundoff (852 Responses)
  1. hdputter

    good ridance to the NBA

    November 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ebw

      Amen brother.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • dumbpeopleeverywhere

      I agree this is a stupid waste of time, the fact people even get paid that much to play a stupid game is beyond me, and simple stubbornness is disheartening to us all

      November 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      100% correct these NBA players are nobody's that are way over paid. Put a end to it all. Greed ruins sports.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kathy

      Totally agree! Maybe most of the NBA players can return to college, earn a degree, and got a "real" job! While I admire the skill that NBA players have, I find it hard to sympathize with players and owners who cannot agree on how to split $4 BILLION when we have some 13 million Americans out of work – through no fault of their own. Many of these out of work Americans have lost their health care and their homes.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JD

    I wonder if these people felt the same way about the NFL players when they almost lost a season? What about during the MLB strike? Closet racism is what I see in these comments. Can't you all understand that the Owners are asking the players to take a significant pay cut when the league is more profitable than ever?

    November 15, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • dumbpeopleeverywhere

      How the hell is that racist, just because black people play basketball doesn't mean that the owners are ditching them because there black, its a stupid game and the people who work for the nba should be demanding better wages not the players who work maybe 10 hours a week and make bank

      November 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sarah

    Have us kids play.... we put on quite a show. have them suckers who turned down millions watch someone else for a change

    November 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. PatrickK

    Dumb Jocks and Million Dollar Crybabies... that sums up what the NBA Players are. It's pretty simple that the NBA players are going to have to fight 2 wars here and will lose both of them. The 1st war is obviously the Owners. If the Million Dollar Crybabies want 57% of the Revenue, then when the league loses money, they should pay 57% of the losses. If I work for a company, that I help make popular and think (key word here) I built, I would jump at the chance to earn 50% of the profits. Corporations (Big and Small) may have had help building their success from it's employees, but those employees don't get 50 % of the Revenue/Profits. The 2nd war the players will fight is us... the FANS! And with our First Amendment rights, we can basically verbally abuse the NBA players through insults, free speech and the press. We can also boycott their games & merchandise and not buy any products they endorse. Look out players, you just opened up a big can of whoopass and that's what the owners and us fans are going to give you.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike Martin

    Lets have the million $$$ players pitch in and buy some Christmas presents for the out of work minimum paid employees!!!!!!!!

    NBA can kiss my ass................already cancelled my season tickets.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. upon this rock

    Basketball? Heck I did not even notice no games. I don't watch any Professional sports, they are not professionals they are spoiled brats with million dollar lawyers. Do away with all of it. Take in a few highschool and college games, at least
    you come away knowing it was a good cause.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. M Gonzales

    Disband the NBA and all the teams and start a new Basketball Organization from the ground up but this time with better financial planning all around.

    MG
    Edgewood NM

    November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John King

    Far be it for me to defend these guys,(I don't support professional sports in any way) but let me play devil's advocate. First, they are all just trying to get as much as they can. Wouldn't any of you do that? If you thought you could get paid more at work, would you settle for less? Second, professional athletes have a relatively short carreer and when they're done playing there aren't alot of options: open a restuaurant, coach perhaps, act? Last, although they are grossely overpaid, it's what the market will bear. If you paid me millions to basically play, then I would take it and more! If people want the players' salaries reduced, they should not attend games or support the teams and say why.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • janus

      5 million $ per years
      average career of nba player is....3 years?
      15 million $ for that 3 years
      if you havent saved properly, didnt value ur education,paid ur posse to take care of u...then u deserve to fail!
      good riddance

      November 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ebw

    Sneaked through high school on social promotion? Avoided classes in college, then dropped out early to join the NBA? Still read at the fouth grade level? You clowns better beat it down to McDonald's and apply for jobs before the idots from Occupy Wall St beat you to it.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. pcf

    NBA = No Basketball Anymore = So What?
    Life in this world will probably still go on.
    There are much bigger problems in the worlld than the end hoodlums in shorts making millions of dollars to play a game that many of us played as a kid for free.
    The owners put up all the money, take all the financial risks and these hoodlums in shorts are not making enough millions of dollars to play a game? Give me a break! Let them go wash cars for a living.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cal

    50-50 is fair to all. Either the players want to play or not. The owners need to move on with other options and let the players find another life. It is high time in our society with our high unemployment and all the folks out of work, that these folks need a "CALL TO JESUS" moment and recognize how lucky they have had it in the past. As I was told a long time ago, spare ribs sure beats no ribs.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PatrickK

    So long, farewell... goodbye! Won't miss much about a league that has corrupt referees, a corrupt Commissioner who rigged certain games, Jordan, Kobe, LeBron & Tim Duncan getting calls they don't deserve and million dollar crybabies boo-hooing about how they don't make enough money. In the words of Jeremy Roenick (years back) the NBA and it's athlete's can kiss my _ss.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. SwilliamP

    The fundamental question- can most Americans live normal, happy lives without the existence of pro basketball? Answer: a resounding "Yes".

    November 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jt

    How do they expect me to be sympathetic to either party? One side consists of dumb jocks making millions playing a game and the other side consists of filthy rich owners who happily charge $50 for a ticket and $5 for a small popcorn...for a preseason game. Screw them all. Haven't missed the NBA one bit but I do feel bad for the working stiffs who depend on this greedy enterprise to make a humble living for themselves and their families.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. janus

    good riddance!
    you guys are lucky to be earning that much money!
    and now you go on strike!?
    w t f!?
    your average salary is 5 million $!!!!!!!
    if it takes a hit in the next year or more??? who cares!?
    welcome to the real world, you stupid lameos!
    i for one will never watch another nba game!
    this is it!the final straw has been pulled!
    youre all pituitary freaks with oversized egos and no idea how the real world works!
    good riddance!

    November 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
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