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. fred bazzeeda

    Good riddance to the overpaid, greedy, arrogant, selfish thugs who have no interest in the game for the fans, who actually are putting the millions in their pockets at the end of the day. These thug players basically have just spit at the face of the fan, and now the fan will no longer be supportive.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • kimjongill

      you are right about everything but you can't always refer to any blackmen you disagree with as some respect...we are people just like you with feeling to always be lumped as thugs

      November 16, 2011 at 3:13 am | Report abuse |

      Hey bozo, it's not the players, it the greedy owners who are the problem, especially that socialist dictator David Stern. I despise that slug!! Give the players what they want!! They are the 99% in the NBA!!

      November 16, 2011 at 5:09 am | Report abuse |
    • matthew

      be more dramatic, please.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      stern is socialist?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Josh Davis

      Fred Bazzeeda- As a fan I will still be supportive. I simply will fill my time I spent watching NBA games and checking out the highlights somewhere else until they resume play. If you aren't still an NBA fan after this then you never were one. Quite frankly your comments are hack and predictable, not very intelligent, and have been said over and over again by people just looking for attention.

      The players didn't spit in my face. I am disappointed but I don't feel like I want to get violent because of their decision. Its just one of those things that as a fan you must sit back and let run its course. I will end this note by saying I don't think you are a very happy person and may need some help.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy

      I'd rather watch college basketball anyways

      November 16, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
    • billyripp

      D**n! Y'all make me so sick. ****ing greedy!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • rukiddinme


      November 16, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. Robert

    NBA should cap highest priced lower bowl seats at $30 each, then pay players accordingly.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      why should they do that, robert?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  3. Alan Taylor

    These thugs as basketball players can flip hamburgers the rest of their lives. That's about all they will be able to do! We as fans are done. We are all trying to get by in this economy and scrimp and save to buy a ticket to watch them. Not any more. We will not support their greedy selfish life styles anymore. They should have thought who ultimately pays their salaries. It was the fans. But not now!!!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Bridgette Lappen

      Right on Alan! Very sad for the workers who will not be employed selling hotdogs this year, you know...those truly hurt and barely an after thought in this disgusting fiasco.

      The NBA and the players should hang their heads in shame.

      November 16, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      they will not need to flip burgers. they are wealthy.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      Good for you Alan. Now you can watch the game at your boring house and your boring wife can nag you all day lol.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      also, alan, what do you know of their "greedy, selfish lifestyles"? are you feeling jealous of their earning power? or, is it the cultural thing that is sticking in your craw? you choose to put yourself in the situation where you have to scrimp and save to buy a ticket to watch them. watch the games on tv if going to the arena is such a financial hardship. it is the fans who created this monster.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. WOT

    NBA player I hope you were not in the Stock Market for McDonald is not hiring and no body else!

    November 16, 2011 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      they just hired your momma on fries and your sister on shakes lol.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Lafunda

      Perhaps you should look into some ESL classes. You wouldn't sound so re+arded in your posts.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. bigwilliestyles

    Come on man, support the NBA. I know you don't want to see some 400+ Black guys (and 2 white dorks, only 1 of whom can play) lose their jobs, do you?

    November 16, 2011 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. clnee55

    That's not good for black unemployment, which is already high

    November 16, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      Not good for your momma either. Now she has to trick at the football games lol.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. treblemaker

    It's all relative, no matter how much the money. All I can say to the fans are-quit your whining!! The players deserve every penny they make, and everyone who complains is just envious of their God-given abilities. The players have gone through thousands of hours of dedication and sweat to their craft that the majority of you couch potatoes have no understanding or concept of what it takes to truly excel in a physical sport. Making it to (and in) the NBA, or any other sport for that matter, is a ruthless quest, because the financial stakes are so high. That is the American way of doing business. The players were locked out, they did not strike. The owners are like the banks, crying the blues, wanting the players to bail them out from their terrible decision-making. Not this time.

    Ever since the late President Reagan fired the traffic controllers 30 years ago, unions across the country have taken a systematic and never-ending beating in labor negotiations, and are now looked at as pariahs in the court of public opinion. It was ONLY a strong union presence that gave hope to the middle class so that the average person could have some sense of job stability and be able to raise their family without fear of management capriciousness. It was a shame the unions went overboard when they didn't have to. Compromise is usually the best solution. Oh, well, those days are gone. Today, most company workers are slaves to something worse-political correctness and corporate greed. I applaud the NBA Players' Union-for the first time in ages, a group is standing up for their rights, not caving in to the intransigence of the owners. Believe it or not, for the sake of all average people, and all unions that are fighting for their very lives, you better hope the Players' Union sticks to their guns. Because if they don't, and they capitulate to the owners' demands, it will send a shot across the bow of every union in America that their rights can be trampled on at any time even worse than they are now. I say to the players-cancel the season, and go abroad and make your money. Yes, the people who depend on the teams playing for their jobs will be hurt, no denying that. However, this is more than just about money. This is about a collective, and individual, self-respect. People have the right to organize in the workplace. It is the law, and finally, a union stands up to fight. GO NBA PLAYERS!! OCCUPY (the court of public opinion)!! Stand your ground, for all of our sakes.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
    • rukiddinme

      Thank you Lebron. See how spell check and a thesaurus actually make you look intelligent.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      i agree with the first paragraph. the second one doesn't concern me directly

      November 16, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. matthew

    those of you who keep saying "the fans" or "we aren't" should learn to speak only for yourself and not dictate your opinion as the opinion of others.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    I'd have to have watched it before the strike to care about the strike. MLB went on strike, they still have not recovered. NFL went on strike, they still have not recovered. Now Basketball went on strike, how long will it take for them to recover? Personally I'm done with professional sports. Economy is in the toilet and the owners and players deny their fans one of few things that takes their mind off it, epic failure. Let me see when all the college games are on.....

    November 16, 2011 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. rukiddinme


    With an NBA player's strike against the team owners , now is the time for us to show the world just how much we care. It's just not right. Hundreds of basketball players in our very own country are living at or just below the seven-figure salary level! Atrocious! And, as if that weren't bad enough, they will be deprived of pay for several weeks–possibly a whole year–as a result of the strike. But now you can help! For about two thousand dollars a day–that's less than the cost of a large screen projection TV–you can help a basketball player remain economically viable during his time of need.

    Two thousand dollars a day may not seem like a lot of money to you, but to a basketball player it could mean the difference between a vacation spent golfing in Florida or a Mediterranean cruise. For you, two thousand dollars is nothing more than three months rent or mortgage payments. But to a basketball player, two thousand dollars a day will almost replace his salary.

    Your commitment of two thousand dollars a day will enable a player to buy that home entertainment center, trade in the year-old Lexus for a new Ferrari, or enjoy a weekend in Rio.


    Each month, you will receive a complete financial report on the player you sponsor. Detailed information about his stocks, bonds, 401(k), real estate, and other investment holdings will be mailed to your home. You'll also get information on how he plans to invest the $5 million lump sum he will receive upon retirement. Plus upon signing up for this program, you will receive a photo of the player (unsigned). Put the photo on your refrigerator to remind you of other peoples' suffering.


    Your basketball player will be told that he has a SPECIAL FRIEND who just wants to help in a time of need. Although the player won't know your name, he will be able to make collect calls to your home via a special operator just in case additional funds are needed for unexpected expenses.

    Simply fill out the form below.

    ___YES, I want to help!

    I would like to sponsor a striking NBA basketball player. My preference is checked below:

    [ ] Starter
    [ ] Reserve
    [ ] Star*
    [ ] Superstar**
    [ ] Entire team***
    [ ] I'll sponsor a player most in
    need. Please select one for me.

    * Higher cost
    ** Much higher cost
    *** Please call our 900 number to
    ask for the cost of a specific
    team (Sorry, does not include

    Please charge the account listed below $2,054.79 per day for a reserve player or starter for the duration of the strike. Please send me a picture of the player I have sponsored, along with a team logo and my very own NBA Players Association badge to wear proudly on my lapel.

    [ ] MasterCard [ ] Visa
    [ ] American Express [ ] DiscoverCard
    [ ] Diner's Club

    Your Name: __________________________
    Telephone Number: __________________
    Account Number: _____________________
    Signature: _________________________

    Mail completed form to NBA Players Association or call 1-888-TOOMUCH now to enroll by phone. (Children under 18 must have parental approval.)

    Note: Sponsors are not permitted to contact the player they have sponsored, either in person or by other means including, but not limited to, telephone calls, letters, e-mail, or third parties. Keep in mind that the basketball player you have sponsored will be much too busy enjoying his free time, thanks to your generous donations. Oh yes, contributions are not tax-deductible.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
    • BREEZE

      Get a job blogger!!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • rukiddinme

      The Globetrotters are coming to town...Now that is worth the cost of a ticket!!!!

      November 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jan M. Geter-Roberson

    @treblemaker. You are right!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. Richard Click

    I hate David S. – I think he is a dictator – why don't all of the players start their own "commercial enterprise" – sign contracts with it instead of the teams – who owns the stadiums – the cities I would guess – hire some refs – sell some tickets and start playing ball. Who looses – the owners of the multi-million dollar franchises that are now worthless. The NBA is not an organization – it's David S. sandbox. Orange growers make more money when they started making their own orange juice and selling it rather than just selling the raw product to the oj companies. They might even get Mark Cubin (SP) to run the show. The owners should get rid of David S. – who imposes a 1/2 Million dollar fine on an owner – get real people – he is the only thug in the ring.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. wendy5

    will be a great day when these sports people go away

    November 16, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bob Decker

    Please what can I do to make sure there is no NBA this season. A season of college hoops yes Lebron and the spoiled superstars no. Bad news is when they come back the well to do fan will over pay to see these guys. Let them all move to europe. College hoops are great

    November 16, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. rick

    I couldn't be happier. The NBA has not been about playing basketball for the last 15 years. Both sides are just money hungry losers. Good-bye NBA !!!!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
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