Futile Open Letters to the NBA

By Marcus Shockley

The executive director of the National Basketball Association players’ association, Billy Hunter, speaks to reporters after taking part in contract negotiations between the NBA and the players association in New York June 30, 2011. The NBA was on the verge of its first work stoppage in 13 years after negotiations over a new labor deal collapsed hours before the current collective bargaining agreement expires, the union representing players said on Thursday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS BASKETBALL)


One one hand, as a fan of the game of basketball, I get it.

We all want basketball, and so many fans and writers have been publicly wringing their hands and saying ‘why, oh why, can’t they just work this out?’. In that mindset, David Aldridge has penned An Open Letter to NBA’s Players and Owners, in which he pretty much says as much.

I wish it were that easy, but Aldridge is like so many people who, unfortunately, don’t own a business and aren’t in the owners’ shoes. The reality is that while the players’ association will continue to release reports in which they attempt to show that even the worst teams in the NBA are making money, the NBA has been broken for a long time. Think the NBA Finals that just concluded were some kind of heroic comeback? Not even close. The NBA is so far off it’s game that even a meager ratings victory seems fantastic. Compared to the NFL, the NBA has been broken as a business for a long, long time, and there is a rash of new owners in the league since the last CBA who aren’t going to tolerate it.

David also attempts to point out how the owners can’t complain about losing money under the agreement that they signed in 1998…oh, but that’s naive. Many of the owners in the league never agreed to that deal, and many of them bought teams knowing full well they intended to put in a much better deal this time around. They bought the teams from the foolish owners who agreed to that deal on the cheap; now, you’re going to watch how they turn those franchises in money machines.

Some owners bought in several years ago, content to lose money for a few years, knowing that they could get their profits back when the current deal expired.

To put it bluntly, fans and sports writers are going to have to stop thinking of the NBA players as somehow being partners in the NBA. They aren’t. They are employees. While some of them may be highly marketable employees, there’s little incentive for the owners to continue to allow the players to dictate terms and run the league.

That era is over.

The world is full of people who think they know all there is to know about running a business…on social media sites, blogs, sports television and in sports columns published across the nation every day. Unfortunately, most people in all walks of life have no idea what they are talking about, and when it comes to what the NBA owners are going to do, this is just another one of those cases.

When this is all over, the players will make less money, they will have fewer options for free agency and the owners will get what they want.

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