Thoughts From a Frustrated Fan: The Business Behind the NBA Lockout

September 21, 2011  |  

By Jay Anderson

Everyone has their vices. Some women (ie: my wife) obsess over expensive shoes. For some people it’s food. For me, it’s basketball, the NBA variety to be exact.

I’m a season ticket holder of a very bad team I’d rather not mention here, but it rhymes with Gizzards. I exemplify the term “fan.” I pay very good money to see a very bad team. My office and man cave at home are chock full of team bobbleheads and merchandise. I have dozens of games from last season on DVR that I watch when I’m bored. I persue team fan blogs with every free moment of my work day.

As the NBA’s lockout drags perilously close to the start date of training camp with no end in sight, I can’t help but think how miserable a sports winter this might be without The Association. Sure, there’s college ball and the NFL, and well, my wife and kids to keep me preoccupied. But it’s hard to imagine the upcoming 2011-12 season wiped out because a bunch of spoiled millionaires and a bunch of greedy billionaires can’t come to a simple labor agreement. Sometimes I wonder if the NBA and it’s players have considered the possibility that people like me don’t care about a few percentage points of a multi-billion dollar pie. We just want to see some hoops.

At the root of this entire debate is just how much of the league’s basketball related income (BRI) should be shared with the players. That number came in at around $3.817 billion last season, and players got around 57% of it in the form of salaries. The NBA contends that that percentage needs to be reduced a few points to keep expenses in line with revenue. The players, obviously disagree, thus the lockout.

Stepping back, I understand the plight of both sides. Players don’t want limits on the maximum length of salaries, a hard salary cap, or other league-proposed restrictions that will essentially limit the amount of that multi-billion dollar pie that the NBA must share with them. The league wants to bring player salaries back in line with earnings, asserting (via some very dubious math, might I add) that nearly 2/3 of the league’s teams are losing money annually.

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