The truth of the matter is right there in front of us and is impossible to ignore, the NBA is as popular as it's ever been and has the potential to go even higher. There are as many talented, Hall of Fame class players now as when the league was in it's prime. But this heightened attention is in serious danger as the biggest threat to this popularity looms in the not so distant future, a potential lockout.
The current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire at the end of the month and as things are looking now, a lockout is sure to happen. The central issue is similar to the NFL's, money, but in basketballs case, it isn't about dividing a huge chunk of profit but in making the game more profitable for everyone.
You see, unlike in football, the majority of the people making money in the NBA is the players. Due to the last CBA that was hastily thrown together at the last minute, owners relinquished way too much to the players, to the point where the spending has effectively hamstrung the game. Players with minimal ability are receiving outlandish contracts, thus making it even more difficult for any type of parity to exist within the league. And before you start saying that nobody forced the owners to offer these contracts, I'm gonna tell you they were forced by the way the last CBA was set up.
"Players have benefited from the current system more than the teams," Commissioner David Stern said. "For them it has been a much better partnership. We are sorry that the players' union feels that way since it doesn't seem designed to get us to the agreement that is so important to the teams, and we had hoped, the players."
So now we've come full circle and it's time to renegotiate. This time, the owners aren't bending over and are trying to even things out. They intend to make it so profits can be seen across the board and that maybe some parity can be found. The problem, however, lies with how do you make the players give up some of the rights and money they previously had.
Not easily is the answer.
"To me, it speaks to the arrogance they have in approaching us," Players union president Derek Fisher said. "Trust and loyalty pretty much go out the window when it comes to business.
"We haven't been partners in this venture from day one. We've been employees, the talent that has grown the game. It's difficult to be partners in recovery when we haven't been partners in generating those losses."
The bitterness is there from the players perspective but so to must the reality that basketball, as it is, isn't working from a financial standpoint and if they want the sport to grow and prosper, as it has the potential to do, then some compromise has to be had.
Of course saying that and doing that is two separate things…
Prepare for a lockout.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS