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. illuminated Genius

    Hey i have a idea, why doesn't the NBA pay that money to the fans for their opinions instead of acting like babies arguing who has the most millions or billions? Personally i feel this is David Stern fault and the system itself is bad. Professional sports has to change to not allow owners to take control of the teams. It has to be represented by the city not the owners. The only thing this has done is ruin Basketball. The real truth is that none of the teams in the NBA represent the cities they play for as they are owned by some rich billionaire today who has suckers pay and root for his team in the NBA. I think these lockout's only really ruin the image of the NBA and other professional sports in this country. The system is no good. For a lock out to not happen NBA teams should not be privately owned at all as they should be represented by the city it competes for and its fans not owners who only care about themselves. I am not overall surprised this has happened and the NBA is the big loser for this. They should reform the system and get rid of all the owners and most importantly they should pay the fans money. They have all this money made, no one cares about either the owners or players.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AllForAmerica

    Why don't the owners just drop the NBA league and start up a new league of their own? where salaries are not ridiculous and everyone plays by their rules. Players can join the new league if they want, or not. Can you imagine the fresh new talent a new and cheaper basketball league would bring?

    November 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      They should do that. Declare bankruptcy or whatever. Disband the league the start up again fresh. I wouldn't be against using replacement players either. The players have shown us that they will head overseas to play for a few hundred Thousand. Imagine if they went replacement players, Scabs would be flowing in quickly.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • rukiddinme

      BIG THUMBS UP!! You have my vote

      November 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • NK

      I say yes to this but take it a step further and make it so you have teams from other countries too... that way the team crowned "world champion" is truly that.

      November 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Paul

    NBA, who really cares?

    November 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      The Kardashians....................

      November 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • CoffebeatsTea

      Don't forget NBA is #2 sport in the world (NOT U.S. obviously) so yes, people do care...but yeah this fight between millionaires and billionaires is annoying.

      November 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dean

    I think we should all go to work tomorrow and demand to share in the companies income or else.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • mayfiat

      I like that idea, my boss would get a great laugh out of it and I'd get my regular paycheck. Worth a good laugh 🙂

      November 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dean

    Like basketball? Attend a local high school game in your town. They are just as exciting, only cost a few bucks, probably even have free parking and the hot dogs are better..

    November 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. floatingdivs

    No offense to any of you, but this is CLEARLY an issue regarding race for most posters (read: whities) and they expect NBA players to take a paycut when you posters surely wouldn't do the same. As a friend of an NBA player, I pray they stick together and get their wishes. They've accepted THREE BILLION in concessions and yet the greedy NBA owners want MORE? Here's hoping no season until the BRI is > 50% and they get the right to switch teams anytime they want rather than owners treating them as SLAVES.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • mh916

      HAHAHA!!! I remember when I had my first beer, and posted comments on line that were foolish and made no sense. floatingdivs, you're confusion is very cute, but I think you need a nap. Night..night!

      November 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • bennycat

      The contempt has nothing to do with the color of anybody's skin. It's about the color of the multi-million dollar salaries. Given the state of today's economy, do these bozos really expect a lot of sympathy for their demands for more, more, more?

      November 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • echopolitics

      Nobody cares about your friend or your dumb opinions. The fact is, the owners treat the players like employees, not "slaves". Quit making this about race! It's about money and greed. The players shouldn't get more than 50%, and they should be happy with their million-dollar contracts, rather than hanging the fans out to dry. Are Larry Hughes or Gilbert Arenas really worth the paychecks they receive? This is not the time to rub this in the public's face and take basketball away from fans who actually know what economic hardship looks like. I honestly hope the league can void the contracts with guaranteed money

      November 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • mayfiat

      there you go again, had to play the race card didnt ya? typical, nuf said

      November 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissDaisy

      Owners are greedy??? WHat about the word "Owner" do you and you NBA Thug friend not understand?? The players ought to be thankful they make as much as they do! The owners are supposed to make the most money...they OWN the team, idiot!

      November 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissDaisy

      I've never heard of a slave making any money....certainly not millions like these clowns.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • clay

      "Are Larry Hughes or Gilbert Arenas really worth the paychecks they receive?"

      no...but its not like they held a gun to the owners heads and made them draw up those ridiculous contracts...the owners need to assume some responsibility with the contracts they sign. Both the owners and players are at fault here and this is now going deeper than just the CBA....this is beginning to affect the lives of the employees who work for these organizations; vendors, ticket salespeople, janitors cleaning toilets etc. People are now losing jobs because of greedy multimillion players and billionaire owners and that should weigh more than anything else.

      November 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ron

      It is absolutely ridiculous and insulting to anyone who was ever a slave or who has ancestors who were to say that guys making millions of dollars a year are being treated as slaves. There employes who are paid more to play a game than most people make in several years combined.

      November 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. EchoPolitics

    Haha. Brad, you literally had me laughing at work. I wasn't going to comment on this disaster, but I like your style

    November 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    I resent the "out-of-touch rich kids" remark. What intelligent insight does this comment bring to the article? I don't understand the underlying resent cast on players who are excersing their capitalist right to pursue as much money as they feel they are worth.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. richard

    I am glad I have no interest in labor law as I am sure it would make no sense to me. How ccan a group of "workers' be represented by a union and a collective bargaining agreement, let that agreement expire because new terms didn't suit them and then claim they are being denied work? A business has a right to refuse to allow workers orgainzed under a collective bargaining agreement to work without an agreement just as the workers have a right to strike. Are you telling me after all these weeks (or months) that with the snap of their fingers the union can simply disappear and the owners are now required to let the workers return sans any agreement? Doesn't sound like a level playing field to me. Sounds like to union gets their way until they change their mind and want to go back to work...with or without an agreement.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • S-man

      Perfectly put Richard. And along those lines... They mentioned many times that they had met that day for 12 hours, etc. What in the world are they talking about for 12 hours, day after day. Do they have to stop and explain any word greater than 2 syllables to Derek Fisher?

      November 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm | 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 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. clay

    Both the owners and players are at fault here and this is now going deeper than just the CBA....this is beginning to affect the lives of the employees who work for these organizations; vendors, ticket salespeople, janitors cleaning toilets etc. People are now losing jobs because of greedy multimillion players and billionaire owners and that should weigh more than anything else.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rukiddinme

    Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
    Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
    The dead rising from the grave!
    Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

    November 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rukiddinme

    there might not be a basketball season this year. “But if you want to watch millionaires throwing elbows, there’s still the Republican presidential race

    November 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ron

    Here's a suggestion for the players. Don't blow your millions on ridiculous amounts of material things and you wouldn't need those exra percentage points in the BRI or max deals or any of that crap. It's your own fault if you make millions of dollars and can't afford your own ridiculous lifestyle. Maybe just get two half million dollar cars instead of 5 maybe not buy and wear so much expensive jewerly your a walking robbery waiting to happen. Wake up and live in the real world people.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. klownboy

    That's all I have to say about the NBA

    November 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
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