The NBA lockout is finally over. For five months, the owners and players were deadlocked in negotiations with no real hope of compromise in sight. But the NBA owners, in a surprise effort to salvage the season, met with representatives of the NBA Players Association, the players’ union, over Thanksgiving Day Weekend and came up with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that is satisfactory for all.
The league cancelled almost 20 games and lost over $100 million in revenue over the course of the debacle. Now that the players and owners have come up with an agreement, league games are projected to start on Christmas Day, the second most lucrative period in the NBA regular season after the All-Star Weekend. This year, teams will play a shortened regular season of 66 games, 16 games fewer than a normal regular season.
From an objective perspective, one can see why the owners and the players had such a hard time coming up with a new CBA. The owners claimed that the previous agreement was unfair to small-market franchises; it lead to clubs incurring heavy losses and, by extension, owners losing millions of dollars. Under the previous CBA, which was negotiated in 1999 and expired on July 1, 2011, the league’s income was divided 57-43 percent, in favor of the players. The league reported losses of $300 million last year, with 22 franchises failing to make a profit. The disparity between big and small-market franchises (those who could and could not survive under the conditions of the former CBA) had become so immense that overall competition in the league had been affected.
Instead of dividing income 57-43, the new CBA will ensure that revenue be split more fairly, with players getting anywhere from 49-51 percent. The new model ensures more franchises operate in the black, while also leaving enough funds to invest on quality players, thus improving the teams, making the league more competitive and bettering overall product for the fans. The National Football League (NFL) has the same model, and it is by far the most popular and lucrative league in America.
The new CBA installs a hard salary-cap and also limits the number of maximum-contract players a franchise can have in its roster to one. In so doing, it puts to rest the headache of having a single player hold his franchise hostage. Last season, for example, Carmelo Anthony, a former Denver Nugget, practically bullied his way out of Denver in order to play for the New York Knicks. In the previous year, LeBron James did the same to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Putting a stop to these types of situations will be a significant victory for both the league and the fans. Now, if a player wants to play for one of the more popular franchises in the league, like the Lakers, the Heat or the Knicks, he will have to take a sizable pay cut in order to move on.
This part of the CBA also ensures that general managers and team scouts will have to put more of an effort into constructing a competitive team than simply signing the best available players, a la the Miami Heat. The CBA also raises minimum salary contracts and rookie-scale salaries. There have been rumors that new player contract lengths will be limited to five years. This is an attempt to minimize the number of bad contracts owners give out to some players.
Under the new CBA, players’ average salaries will almost certainly decrease in the short term, but if they do, it is for the good of the fans. And if the decrease leads to many more franchises competing at a high level every season, in the long run it will benefit players as well. At some point, the players must have realized that losing an entire season would have been extremely detrimental to them, more so than it would have to the owners. That projected $4 billion income for the 2011-2012 season would have been lost, leaving everyone worse off.
The NBA lockout of 2011 will only linger in our memories for a few years. All in all, the new agreement is good for everyone involved. More franchises will be competitive, and huge contracts will be awarded on the merits of not only having a singular stellar season, but a string of fantastic ones. It encourages players to play harder and, by extension, the league to become better. Within the next few years, the NBA will have more competitive games on schedule and fewer blowouts. This is good for the league, good for the players and definitely great for the fans.