Because your contract with the league starts on Christmas Day, a 66-game season was salvaged just past 3 a.m. Saturday. You and the NBA calendar helped make Commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter, the head of the players’ union, come to their senses.
Now that the first of ABC’s 15 regular season games will debut as scheduled, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are no longer among the millions of unemployed Americans.
Heck, Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t have to hibernate in Wurzburg, Germany, for a winter that never turned “nuclear,” as Stern cryptically warned less than two weeks ago. This Cuban Missile Crisis avoided, owner Mark, all-star Dirk and their Dallas Mavericks family finally get their championship rings.
Dec. 25 in front of their home fans and their oh-so-envious opponents that game: LeBron and the Heat — the guys they beat!
There will be an NBA season; Because they couldn’t afford to flush almost a billion dollars in TV revenue, the Grinches of greed gave it back to us.
Really, TV played a huge role. As a person intimate with the negotiations told me Saturday afternoon: “Some owners basically said, ‘We don’t want a season if it’s going to be moved past Christmas.’ They were right up against that deadline. That TV money was very important.”
The three games played on Dec. 25 are a key component in the annual $930 million the league and its players receive from their broadcast partners (about one-quarter of the $4 billion that would have been lost with a canceled season).
Like most labor stalemates, nobody got everything they wanted, and clearly the owners won. A compromise was struck for two reasons: 1.) The owners siphoned enough revenue back from the players, about $300 million a year, to roughly offset their claimed annual financial losses during brutal economic times. And 2.) Both sides were becoming very fearful they were going to lose the entire season and kill genuine strides in fan interest and increased ratings the past couple of seasons.
Stern, to his credit, got past the anger and rhetoric after the players’ union disbanded last week and took their fight to the courts. He and the owners made a few concessions, but ultimately they got what they wanted: a tougher salary cap that forbids teams from spending so ridiculously over the allotted number, which once ruined any realistic notion of a more competitively balanced league; and a 50-50 split in income with the players, who used to get 57 percent of revenues in the last collective bargaining agreement.
The players, as peeved as some might be over giving back about $3 billion over the life of a 10-year agreement, also got what they want: to play. Oh, and a biweekly paycheck from one of the most financially lucrative professions in the world, one in which the average career lasts just 4.71 years, according to a breakdown of the 2007-08 season. Beyond the stratosphere of Kobe and a slew of 10-year plus veterans, much of the NBA’s workforce has a finite number of years to earn that income.