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. john

    Get rid of ALL pro sports getting paid tens of millions a year for playing ball give me a break, go become a scientist, engineer or researcher and do some real good in the world.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • hawaiiduude

      November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • rlowens

      For most of them, if they could not make seven digits for playing a game, they would be flipping burgers or on welfare.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      john the bosses get mad while blogging at your job. Just put the fries up and be quiet.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. walletman

    We'll all find another form of entertainment.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      right next to your sister and momma on fries lol.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Astra Navigo

    Kids, here's the real news:

    1. One worker in five is out of work. The government owns up to 9%, but the real figure, if you count everyone, is around 18-20%. People aren't worried about a bunch of pituitary-cases with double-digit IQ's who get paid seven figures to bounce a ball on hardwood – they're worried about paying the rent.

    2. One child in four goes to bed hungry. See above. The last thing most Americans are concerned with is this bunch. They want to feed their kids.

    3. Over half of the working people in America don't have health insurance. Ditto. Someone who can't be bothered to sign a contract to work for $100K+/game is obscene – especially when we have people dying of preventable disease.

    Get real.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher Yuan

      If you are so smart why do you not go and help the poor hungry people

      November 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      Well stop blogging and go feed one of those hungry kids moron.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Matthew Jandecka

    For the love of money... Tis' a pity! Who's to blame? All parties involved! Athletes have traded their passion for playing the game for the passion of making that almighty dollar. It's no longer about the sport. It's now about the business, and who's getting paid the most. I have no tears to shed for those who choose to sell their souls!

    November 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      Matthew you should never ask for a raise. Do it for the passion. Playground hoops is for passion. nba is about money and lots of it.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. james

    The greed of it all,talented players,who truly make you sick,with their given abuse of their fans and
    paying public,should we show up as watchers anymore or protest at all these arenas around this country
    moneyball,moneyball,fly away, your house is on fire and who gives a damn,.burn,burn burn!!!Show some
    respect for your owners,you know who you are,do we need lawyers and price increases at the gate.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rlowens

    I cannot accurately convey how little I care about any of this. They should be embarrassed that these "issues" have gone public. I don't care if any of the players ever see another paycheck and I don't care if any of the team owners ever make another dime off the game, I hope they are all satisfied in their smug positions. I'm going to play a video game and forget about basketball.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      I believe that you are on the wrong blog mister i don't care. The backstreet boys blog was yesterday lol.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ricardo

    1) All public stadiums should be paid for by the league's profits. Its insane that public dollars are subsidizing seats at the arena while the players make 5-7 million a year. 2) Get scabs to play. To hec with them.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. revac

    whahahahahhahahahaahahaaaaaaa whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa whaaaaaaaaaaaaa money money whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa can't share whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa money whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    November 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Walter

    If we, the NBA audience, stop swatching or caring about the NBA and instead turns our interests and entertainment dollars to other sports (e.g., college hoops, football, etc.), the NBA will not have any revenues to squabble over.

    I say send message – when the NBA comes back, don't watch it and don't go to the venues to see it live.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      Bla Bla Bla. you will be the first in line buying $10 popcorn when they come back

      November 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lewy

    More. More. I love it.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NBA sucks

    An average guy can barely afford to take his family to a ball game much less a basketball game. Football tickets are expensive too but there's only 16 games. Screw Stern and the players. Screw the NBA. We don't need you.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jujunooky

    Once again, the general american public are deliberately choosing to overlook the wrong of corporate america in this situation. Let me outline my thoughts on this issue and attempt to describe what I think this fight is all about. The league is profittable and the owners want to the player to give up 7% off 4 billion dollars, 280 mllion dollars. Now, the argument against this stupid mov on the part of the owners. American company ship jobs overseas for one reason only to drive up profits. A company making an annual profit of 4 billion dollars a year will move to China to mae a profit 5 billion dollars a year. This would usually begin by slashing of jobs here in the States, to achieve 4 billion from 3 billion dollars. Once 4 billion dollars is achieved, the bonus is paid to some greedy CEO. 4 billion no longer cuts the mustard, 5 billion is now needed for another round of bonuses. Since, all possible cuts have been made and it is practically impossible to cut any more jobs here in the States to achieve an extra billion, it time to move overseas. This move generally devastates the lives of the American here at home and we all accept it. We can globalization and capitalism.

    What we forget in all of this nonsense, which I have coined the phrase, 'tyranny of profit' to describe, is that real people are affected, here in this county. That extra bonus to some retarded CEO from the extra billion sits in a bank somewhere. It is actually more money than could be spent in a hundred lifetimes. In the case of the NBA, that extra 280 million dollars goes in the pocket of the owners. It does not help anyone. The league is not expanding. They aren't creating any more teams or new jobs. These NBA players spend a lot of their collective dimes on the rest of us. We know this because, a great percentage of players go broke after leaving the league. Most of them support desperate family members, friends and charities. These guys are doing something that we all need to pay attention to. What I hear the NBA player re-iterating to the owners is: "We are willing to give up our millions and forgo an entire season, maybe more, if you feel it is your right to take what we've worked all our lives to achieve because you feel you can. The problem is, you have to be willing to lose your billions in the process". This is a huge money grab by the owners and is driven by profit, profit, and profit. This is exactly what the owner are about as this thought process is perfectly aligned with the American corporate profit mentality. A paradigm shift from this warped mentality, which is morally bankrupt is long over due.

    For you and I, the situation is usually skewed against us. At least, that is our perception. The situation is quite different for these players. They are wealthy and their perceptions and strengths are different from the rest of us. We look up to them. They are supposed to fight. They can afford the fight. Their will is strengthened by their finacial success. Don't forget that their will is what got them to where they are today in the first place.

    I say fight on my dear NBA Baller. Many of us expect you to fight and will remain grateful that you are fighting. We don't just need you to be a hero in a ball game.We need you, all of you, to be a hero in the game of life as well. Thanks.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      Well said, I was getting tired of bashing all of the greedy owner lovers.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. fat joey

    Major mistake by the players!! MAJOR! You don't think the Mark Cubans of the world can't outwait you? the Paul Allens? STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES....SIR.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      fat joe these people feed on greed. its not about outlasting for them. there is no principle for them. it's about power for them and the players are no longer putting up with it. What if your Mcdonalds boss did not give you your annual 10 cent raise, you
      would be upset too. lol

      November 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. fedupwithla

    I, for one, can certainly live without the NBA for a season. Can you? Who knows? Maybe parents will be able to speak with their kids again, homework will be done, and the extra money saved on basketball games and sports paraphernalia can be used for such items like food, shelter, and clothing. Can we spare these people the ignominy of not having to drive a luxury car, like the rest of us? Maybe we can all begin to cure some real problems without worrying about these millionaires!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. The InlandEmperor

    The NBA will likely be shocked at the indifference of the general consumer. Too bad.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
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