The owners crushed the players in the 2011 NBA lockout.
Armed with the much-disputed contention that 22 of 30 teams were losing money, the owners were able to cut the percentage of basketball-related income that went to the players from 57% to 51%.
Three years later the NBA is in sound financial health.
Only nine of 30 teams lost money in 2013-14, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports. That number should shrink even more when the league’s massive nine-year, $US24-billion TV deal kicks in starting in 2016-17. The deal will nearly triple the NBA’s current TV revenue.
The owners took a big piece of the pie from the players in 2011. And now that the pie is about to grow substantially, players are not happy.
There’s a rumour that LeBron James wants to eliminate the league’s maximum salary limit. The current MVP, Kevin Durant, complained that top players are underpaid.
The most ominous warning of all comes from Kobe Bryant. On Tuesday Kobe discussed his thoughts on the league’s new TV deal. He said that the owners are the ones who make the real money, and it’s unfair to expect players to accept less than their market value for the sake of winning.
Most interestingly, he said that the players need to stand their ground if the owners try to lock them out in 2017.
“It’s very easy to look at the elite players around the league and talk about the money they get paid, compare that with the average (salary in America), but we don’t look at what the owners get paid, the revenue they generate off the backs of these players. And now you have a TV deal that comes out and you look at it being up like a billion dollars (a year) from the previous one, and this is coming off the back of a lockout in which the cap, it’s not a hard cap, but it’s pretty close to a hard cap.
“And now it will be interesting to see what happens in this next labour agreement. It’s my understanding this TV deal kicks in the last year of this current agreement, so I’m sure they will try to lock us out again and harden the cap even more and I think as players you got to hold your ground a little bit. Not be afraid of what the public perception is and instead try to educate the public a little bit and understanding that it’s not about complaining about how much you’re making, because that’s ridiculous — we are overpaid, at the same time so are the owners. And you have to fight for your value.”
Whenever there is a labour dispute, the players get vilified for trying to improve their already astronomical salaries. The same complaint is not typically applied to owners, for whatever reason.
Kobe is smart in the way he’s framing his argument that the players should stand up to the owners. It’s not about NBA players being underpaid (they aren’t, in the grand scheme of things), it’s about getting paid what they’re worth.
The owners were able to cry poor and get concessions out of the players in 2011. With the eye-popping new TV deal, they will face fiercer opposition from the players if they try to do the same in 2017.
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