With the football season in full swing and the World Series kicking off last week, people have mostly forgotten about professional basketball. After all, what is there to talk about, anyway? The two sides of the lockout, the owners and the players, are at the same position as they were more than two months ago. There is no sign of any new development and neither side has indicated any willingness to compromise their demands. To us sports fans, the NBA is just like a crazy ex-girlfriend – dull, boring and always full of issues.
First, let’s take a look at the lockout itself. For those of you who have not read or did not care to read the many complicated and longwinded explanations on various news outlets, here is the basic breakdown: the owners and players cannot decide on how to share their money. There, not so complicated, was it?
Okay, admittedly, the previous statement includes many specific issues, including revenue share, the type of salary cap, the salary cap exceptions, guaranteed contract, rookie wage scale, etc. But really, how many of these terms do you actually understand or even heard of before the lockout? Yes, my point exactly.
For the last week or so, the NBA has managed to appear on the news again as its failure to reach an internal agreement has lead to the cancellation of a part of the season. Still, even this development has failed to capture the attention of the general public. After all, who watches the preseason anyway? Only the extreme basketball geeks would lament the loss of the first two weeks of a seven month season. We have been told in the last couple of days that if a deal is not made within the next few days, there would be no NBA games on Christmas. Yet this seems more of a threat to the sides in the negotiations than a genuine scare for sports fans. The longer the lockout is, the more fans the NBA has to win back once it finally starts again. Sports fans, on the other hand, seem like they could not care less about whether the billionaires (the owners) or the millionaires (the players) prevail in this battle. All they want is professional basketball, not the absolute financial and legal mess the NBA is showing them right now.
The current back and forth blame game between the owners and players is not going to win any publicity award soon, yet it has to be noted that the owners seems to be having an edge in terms of public image. At least none of them are on the news because of a deal potential to enter the Italian league or a tweet contemplating a move to the NFL. Admittedly, owners never receive much attention anyway, except for Mark Cuban, but the lockout is doing them wonders as the players are appearing on the paper for all the wrong reason. This seems particularly true for the superstars, whose surprising lack of involvement in the negotiation process has left basketball fans around the nation confused. In fact, up until last week, the players’ union is mostly represented by veteran players such as Derek Fisher and Roger Mason Jr., with Chris Paul as the only major star to regularly take part in the process. Coupled with the constant news on how many players are looking for employment in leagues overseas, sports fans cannot help but feel that even the players are not optimistic about the result of the negotiations. Casual fans unfamiliar with the figures involved in the negotiations have also started blaming the players as greedy once they rejected a 50/50 revenue share, a seemingly fair deal It seems that the longer the lockout becomes, the players are more at a disadvantage to the owners.
In any case, the involvement of the superstars in the upcoming round of negotiations will play a crucial part in whether or not we will have an NBA season at all. Not only will the voices of Kobe Bryant or LeBron James have much more weight to the owners, but their involvement will no doubt lead to more publicity for the players, allowing their specific agendas and argument to reach a wider range of audience. After all, the fans are the most powerful potential force that can solve the current stalemate, and getting them involved would ensure a victory for the players. So let’s not see Kobe in Italy for a while or tweets from Lebron on SportsCenter. These players should actually get something done and show the fans that they care about them enough to try.
Contact Andy Tau at [email protected]