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. Tatmanca

    Meh, Hockey is taking my money...better game live anyway.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Wolfy4661

    We live in a country that is about to go bankrupt and probably will be in another recession real soon. Sorry if I don't have any sympathy for a bunch of a people who make a whole lot of money and want more. Get your heads out of your greed filled butts and get back to work.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Factors

      Like I care? Heck, I've got enough to worry about. Shut down the NBA entirely – show these self-serving idiots what the real world is like.
      And one more thing – once you shut it down – DON'T COME BACK!!!!!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I certainly agree. I will also add that it is not only the players and owners who are the culprits but also we as a society continue to support increasing admission prices to events such as these. This also includes functions such as concerts, theatre, amusement prices, etc. We as a society have a need to pay outrages prices no matter what the cost. LETS GET BACK TO BASICS STARTY SPENDING QUALITY TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS TO GIVE US ENJOYMENT. We have become a society where most of us are working for not only the weekend, but weekdays as well. Put God first in our lives and we will see the vanity of most eveything we desire.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. B!

    I find it funny that the men or shall I say boys who are complaining about their salary decrease are the one's who make the most. They are still making money off of endorsements, so whats the big deal. Its disgusting, they forgot where they have come from. Millions of jobs in the NBA are lost because of theses SELFISH dishearten men.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Briggs

      Mike Jordan is the greddiest of all , not only does he want more revenue , but he wants the players to wear and promote his jordan brand sports wear.....Jordan cares more about his money and gambling bets than his own children...hes a typical Tom

      November 16, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |

    Time to give them all a big tax cut! They are job creators!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Maybe Obama can give them some stimulus money. It worked for Fannie May and Freddie Mac...............

      November 16, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • scot

      Yeah right it is Obama's fault ! Sheeeze !!!!!

      November 16, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Not yet but its still early! Hahahahaha!

      November 16, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. gbologn

    Let's look at this in basic concepts. The basketball players have a physical talent and do ALL of the actual "entertainment". The basketball owners are a group of rich people trying to make more money by forming a league to market and "siphon off" of these talented and entertaining players. Who would you really blame for not being able to play this year? I certainly would not be blaming the players who are smartly trying to gain more control of their product. I completely blame the owners for being unwilling to fairly negotiate or to compromise with the players in any way. These goofs can't even agree amongst themselves, let alone with the players. Merry Christmas David Stern and all the rich owners who don't care.....just another example.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • KMan

      The NBA in a hole has lost money. With players that make the most in all sports. I know there's only a short roster of players. But there has to be a hard cap. Like the NFL and the NHL. Look how close the scores are in those games now. The players have to see that they make too much and dont give enought to there retired players. 51% of revenue is more then enough. Thats 2.2 billion to play with in one season which is 8 month long. Dont forget they get 4 month off a year.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Get a clue, seriously. They both share the blame, or are you too ignorant to see it?

      November 16, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • NBA fan

      Seriously? You have no idea what are you talking about. NBA is a business. CEOs run the business. Most of the money that goes to the owners is used for stadiums, employees, vendors, etc. The players just pocket their amount. And lets be real here, the players are getting paid millions of dollars to play a game. The players greed is absurd, the latest deal matched their initial demands and they still turned it down. The minimum salary for an NBA player is 450,000$. In this economy, I hope the NBA collapses and causes these players to get a real job and know what its like to work.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • mh916

      NBA Fan: Well said. I agree 100%.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. steven

    Old news. You can stop reporting this now. There is no season.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. Soljagurl

    These players make millions of dollars and our SERVICE MEMBERS MAKE in the 10 THOUSANDS WHAT THE EFF IS WRONG HERE?!?!?! Can this country EVER get the PRIORITIES straight???? These SERVICE MEMBERS DIE FOR YOU SO YOU CAN MAKE MILLIONS WHAT THE EFF.....

    November 16, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Briggs

      Thats the entertainment industry for you....i say the same thing for over valued movie stars

      November 16, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. JJ

    Our education system is in the toilet where teachers charged with the most important job with a 4-year degree makes in one year what these guys make in one day.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. Duane

    I think the NBA needs to wake up and hear America. We are so tired of hearing how you may have to trim down your spending to a $1million this year instead of $2 million. We are tired of hearing you complain because you have to work longer seasons to earn that 20,000 SQF home. We are tired of hearing that you may have to downgrade from a Bently to a Cadillac. You all are a bunch of spoiled children who do not deserve our money anymore.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. HPiragua

    NBA players have come a long way in acquiring salaries matching their talents, sacrifices, and dedication to the game. However, overtime they have become arrogant, selfish, self-centered, and "GREEDY". Multi-million dollar contracts, and a life style emulating the "rich and famous" have replaced a modest and wholesome outlook on life. Without the owners who put up the bucks there would be no multi-million contracts, no hundred thousand dollars cars, no multi-million dollar homes, and no value in their basketball skills and talents. Maybe they should invest in becoming owners themselves for I'm sure they would protect their investment as well desiring to obtain maximum profit margins. Accept the offer and start playing basketball!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Curbie54

    This whole thing goes to show how greedy the players and owners are. What about the people who make an honest living working at the stadiums where these jokers PLAY A GAME? No game = no reason to employ security, vendors, ushers, ticket takers, etc... So because these people who could, potentially, never have to work again because of the amount of money they already have, thousands of people will be out of work.

    I was never a big fan of basketball, but now, well, I wouldn't spend money to support the NBA for anything in the world.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mike

    Both sides of this stand off make way more then the average worker trying to make ends meet It is unbelievable that they are fighting for more money. In the meantime, the people who fill the seasonal jobs and the many businesses who benefit from the games and provide jobs because of the revenue driven by the games, are taking the brunt of the greed of the players and NBA Have they forgotten its the fans that bring them the money When they do figure it out and play, we, who pay to see the games, should boycott the very first game to show the players the power we have.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. jasper

    who cares, CNN is awful

    November 16, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Stan Levenson

    So much for unions, Look what happen to the American economy in recent years when the demands of the unions, now you are watching a sports industry collapse. It is amazing how dumb Americans are allowing this to go on. Hopefully when this scenario is over, the fans will not support the NBA, Wishful thinking Dumb Dumb Americans, you deserve what you get. there is more to life than playing basketball or for that matter any sport. DISGUSTED

    November 16, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. scot

    College Hoops are the only game in town and these clowns just need to go away. The only time I watch them anymore is the playoffs and these past years not even that !

    November 16, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
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