Casualties of the NBA lockout

By James Rose

The last Collective Bargaining Agreement of the NBA signed in 2005 guaranteed six seasons of play and had an expiration date of July 1, 2011. The expiration date has passed with no further contract signed, resulting in a cancellation of games until at least Nov. 30. This is only the second time in the league’s 65-year history a lockout has occurred — the 1998-99 season managed, despite half the season being locked out, to have a 50-game season. Any hockey fan will recall how the nhl’s 2004-05 lockout wiped out an entire season of play and ultimately made the Canadian winter even longer.

Money is the primary issue facing the continued lockout. Under the old cba, league commissioner David Stern announced at a press conference in late 2010 that ” . . . the league lost a total of $1 billion in the last six years of play.” The loss of revenue continues despite the league’s popularity steadily increasing during the same time frame. Last season alone, Stern stated the league had “losses that were approaching the $400 million mark.” With the nba keeping private financial records, it is difficult to know the exact amount of revenue lost, provoking the nba players’ association executive director Billy Hunter, who also represents the players’ union, to openly question the league’s accounting principles and the validity of such numbers.

“There has been ongoing debate and disagreement regarding the numbers,” Hunter said in an AP news article. “We do not agree that the stated loss figures reflect an accurate portrayal of the financial health of the league.”

For Stern and the league owners, a new cba needs to be crafted to stop the monetary bleeding. For Hunter, doubts regarding the league’s actual financial direness is leading him to do what he can to retain player earnings for the next few years.

There are a few main points of contention between the players’ union and the league’s owners, including the revision of the current salary cap and its inherent exceptions, the percentage of basketball-related income the players should receive, an effective way to share revenue among the 30 teams, a revision of guaranteed contracts and the slight possibility of league contraction.

The lockout won’t affect college and university players who have hopes of someday playing pro-basketball — the draft for this season has already happened. University of Calgary second-year point guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson was quick to point out the large sums of money NBA players are earning. In favour of lowering the salary cap, Ogungbemi-Jackson said, “lowering the salary cap is really only going to affect superstars like Kobe Bryant who make at least triple what most other players make.”

Fifth-year forward Boris Bakovic, who recently had the privilege of representing the U of C and Canada for the 26th Summer Universaide in China, thinks it’s not a good idea for the league to get rid of teams to save money, “but if Stern thinks so then maybe it should happen.”

Patrick Walker, a second-year forward, said, “they should keep it the way it was, based off last season’s results, so that it evens the balance of power in the league.” For Walker, there would be “no problem with a team potentially getting two first overall picks in a row.”

So while the league and its players try to sort out a new CBA and hopefully prevent a complete loss of season, it is safe to say that changes need to be made with how the NBA is economically structured. With the league losing money yearly, like any other business, change is needed — it’s obvious the league is not being run as efficiently and effectively as possible. Like the great business guru Warren Buffett once said, “when the tide goes out, only then can you see who was swimming naked.” Let’s just hope change comes soon.