It’s Up the Players to End the NBA Lockout

NBA Commissioner (for now) David SternReading message boards around the Internet, you get a sense of how most fans see the NBA labor dispute. There seems to be a growing consensus on 3 points:

  1. Most fans agree that players make a lot of money, perhaps too much money.
  2. Most fans believe that at least some NBA franchises are losing money.
  3. Most fans think a “50 / 50” split sounds pretty fair.

Given that the NBA players’ union disagrees with all 3 of these points, it leaves NBA players with a growing public perception as being out of touch with fans, if not reality.

According to Mark Kriegel, in Michael Jordon‘s first 11 seasons, he won 4 NBA championships, 8 scoring titles and 4 MVP awards, all while being paid an average of $2.37 million a year.

And according to basketball-reference, Larry Bird’s lifetime NBA income as a player was $16 million.

Those guys seemed to get by, you know?

By contrast, LeBron James “sacrificed” his salary so he could play for the Miami Heat for “just” $14.5 million a year.

That’s right, even with his so-called sacrifice, LeBron James makes in a year almost what Larry Bird made in a career, but let’s not forget that Nike gave LeBron a $90 million shoe contract, and Upper Deck a $5 million contract while James was just getting out of high school and hadn’t even played one NBA game yet.

LeBron James made 6 times more money graduating high school than Larry Bird did in his entire NBA career.

It’s mind bending to think today’s NBA players really think they deserve the mad money they get. And watching NBA players demand they “get theirs” while bankrupting teams in the process is pretty much the polar opposite of being a team player.

But that’s today’s NBA I guess.

The NBA claims 22 of its 30 teams are losing money. Forbes wrote that 17 of the NBA’s teams are losing money. Whether the number is 22 or 17, it shouldn’t be any. There are enough paying fans for this to work everywhere.

So players, please, please, look at your position from a fan’s point of view.

We fans just can’t sympathize with NBA players’ indignation about taking a pay cut, given that they are still millionaires who play a game for a living.

Nor can we empathize with the players’ statements saying they do not want to give back the salary gains they’ve won for themselves over the years.

Today’s player salaries grew faster than inflation, than the economy, than the NBA fan base, and are out of control.

I have yet to meet a fan who believes Kwame Brown, who has made about $51.5 million over the course of his NBA career, deserved to earn 7 times more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ($7 million lifetime NBA earnings).

Sometimes the stock market and real estate markets are just artificially too high and need a correction. Frankly, NBA salaries do too.

Fans can, however, sympathize with a struggling business losing money in this down economy — especially when fans themselves are having grave discussions with their spouses about whether or not they can afford tickets or NBA League Pass again this year.

Derek FisherConsequently, when players pontificate about their unity and how they won’t give in, they seriously look like the schmucks here.

Come on Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher, think with your minds and not your egos. You are losing more than regular season games, you are losing our respect.

From a fan’s standpoint, 50 / 50 sounds awfully reasonable.


In fact “fifty-fifty” is pretty much a synonym for fairness.

If two friends are going to open a lemonade stand together, what do they think is fair? Splitting the proceeds fifty-fifty.

Of course it is more complicated than that for the NBA, but fifty-fifty just sounds fair when two parties are in it together. So players, if you are trying to champion for something other than a universally perceived fair deal, be prepared to not have much fan support for it.

Look at the bigger picture, players.

If you were to agree to a 50 / 50 concession, what kind of big concession would that earn you in kind from the owners as they reciprocate?

If players were to make this one concession, you get a sense that everything would unfreeze, and the labor negotiations would quickly get worked out.

) | (But there is an even bigger reason for the players to step up and resolve the NBA labor dispute.

No one cares if Jerry Buss or Mark Cuban gets a year older. The same cannot be said of Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, etc.

In the big picture, the players have even more to lose than the fans. Their careers are being cut short, and their legacies are being tarnished.

Seriously. Players, it is totally up to you to resolve the NBA labor dispute.


By the way, while NBA owners and players have plenty of people at the table representing, there is no one there representing the fans’ interests. Obviously.

Could someone please tell David Stern, Adam Silver, Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher that Speaking Hunter and Fisher, that there are 3 things we fans want in your next collective bargaining agreement?

1First, in the next agreement, make the agents shut up.

If Michael Jordan can be fined $100,000 for making a statement about the labor process, then the tampering sports agents are doing with the labor process should get them disbarred.

The only people who thinks agents are helping are the agents themselves. Sports agents have way too much power and a serious conflict of interest, and they all need to butt out.

Either that or give Michael Jordan, Mark Cuban and the others who have been fined for speaking about the process their money back and let everyone speak freely about the process.

2Second, good sportsmanship off the court is even more important than on it.

wadecomplainingquoteI used to be a big Dwayne Wade fan. Not so much right now. His mouth really hurts his “brand.”

There are too many people (who should know better) spewing out bombastic and toxic nonsense that hurts the process. Come on guys, get a grip and be part of the solution, not the problem.

Stop already with the posturing, vilifying and immature behavior. Only the very dullest among us are fooled by it, and those whose support you really want are turned off by it.

Every time some NBA player brags about how he won’t compromise, all us fans can hear you say is, “I’m selfish and I’m going to get my way or there won’t be a season.”

3Third, structure the next agreement to prevent work stoppage.

If you structure this next deal right, there doesn’t ever have to be a lockout and cancelled games again.

Now is the time to bake into the next agreement that there will never again be a stoppage of work in the NBA.

Set real deadlines with real consequences so that deals get done before it gets to the point where games are lost.

For example, if we don’t have an agreement by the end of the regular season of last season, then the negotiation team has to step back and let another try. Then if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of the playoffs, then appoint a binding arbitration board, where owners, players, season ticket holders, television, and basketball related income interests are all represented. Of course there should be more owners and players than others, and equal numbers of owners and players, but like a trial jury, sequester them from all the rhetoric and opinions swirling in the media and keep them at the task until they have a “verdict.” Hung jury? No problem, because baked into the process is enough time to send another group in to get the job done.


Charles Barkley

For another, and very interesting, view point, listen to Charles Barkley’s interview here.

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