Perception or Reality: The NBA Lockout of 2011

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Wednesday, July 13, 2011 with No comments
This time last year I was preparing myself for what was supposed to be perhaps the greatest season in the history of the Miami Heat organization and this year I'm faced with something that I haven't witnessed since I was a junior in high school.  The owners of the NBA have decided to lockout the players of the league by stating that the NBA as a whole has been loosing hundreds of million of dollars the last few seasons.  Commissioner Stern recently stated that 22 out of the 30 teams currently in the NBA are losing money.  Let me be very clear on this, this is not a strike, the players are not fighting for more money while declining not to play, the owners have shut down the league in an effort to shut down the players, their rising salaries, and their ego's; that is what this lockout is all about nothing more and nothing less.  The goal of Stern is to have all 30 NBA franchises to turn a profit because thus at the end of the day it is a business.  The perception is that most businesses turn profits but the reality is that most fail.

In the early days of Stern's power, the NBA salary cap was introduced and set at $3.6 million dollars, teams could cons
truct their teams up to the $3.6 million threshold and at times go over by way of built in exceptions but as the league reached heights that were never seen before in the 80's, so too did the salary cap.  NBA royalty like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan helped the league reach its new heights by having dramatic rivalries, climatic NBA Finals, and capitalizing on marketing and the growing demand for shoes.  The growth of the NBA as a professional sports league in the view of the global market was a growth that was exponential.  By the time the NBA showcased its product via the Dream Team in Barcelona during the 1992 Summer Olympiad, the Salary cap had risen to $12.5 million dollars.  The momentum did nothing but gain more strength and the 1992 Summer Olympiad was another launching point for the league, along with mega-stars, Magic, Bird, and Jordan, names like Barkley, Robinson, and Malone made their impact on the league for years to come adding to the momentum that was already carrying the star driven league.

David Stern
No major business is absent of mistakes as no decision is perfect, we all make bad decisions in life and in business but it's the multitude of those decisions that causes perception good or bad to become reality and thus the NBA was not immune.  During a sixteen year period from 1988-2004, the NBA saw expansion like never before as seven new teams were added "Heat, Hornets, Magic, Timberwolves, Raptors, Grizzlies, and Bobcats", the WNBA was formed along with the NBDL and the NBATV network.  Expansion isn't a bad concept but this was a case of too much too soon.  The WNBA is in the middle of its 15th season but the league hasn't had a transcendent star in years, the NBDL and NBATV has had modest success in their respective fields but with teams in the NBA now drafting more foreign players than players that are promoted up from the NBDL, is that league even necessary at this time?  The one thing that the NBA has rarely done in the Stern era is admit defeat.  The only time that the NBA as a league admitted defeat was when Commissioner Stern introduced the microfiber composite Spalding ball which was gone by the mid season point of the 2006-07 season due to the multitude of player complaints.  In a league where there's been an aura, a perception of always making right the decisions is anyone truly surprised that the NBA is in the place where it finds itself now.  The reality of the matter is that the NBA and its collection of franchises have made mistakes over the past 16 years and now only at the very end when the commissioner and his minions are finally ready to admit defeat, they look to make the players out as their scapegoats in order to take the stench of blame off themselves.  Stern and his brain trust are utilizing perhaps the oldest game in the book of business, win the public opinion battle while making the opposition look bad and the most disturbing situation of all is that once again the public is blind to that truth and falling into the hands of the perception that the NBA is broadcasting.

In a recent Wall Street Journal Poll, fans were asked who's side were they taking during the current lockout, the owners, the players, or don't care and the results were staggering but also very predictable.  11.6% sided with the players with 28.7% siding with the owners, the remaining 59% stated that they didn't care.  Translation, twice as many fans are siding with the owners when it was the owners who shut down the league to began with, just as they did thirteen years prior citing the same losses that they are now.  During the lockout of 1998, the owners added a luxury tax, escrow accounts and also limited contract lengths and amounts to circumvent said losses.  The players surrendered those options so that they can continue to play the game that they love, the game that they've played their entire lives.  The players relented and the owners received the mechanisms that they needed to again circumvent their losses so the question is, thirteen years later, What happened?  Why are the owners again selling the public on losses; is anyone noticing a pattern here?

No words are needed.
Before I go any further I would like to say that all of the owners aren't bad owners but the bad ones are to blame for this lockout, simply put they are 100% responsible.  I happen to be a fan of a franchise who's owner is perhaps one of the best I've seen in sports, constantly constructing hard working, championship caliber teams year after year and with having won 1 championship.  Micky Arison, owner of the Miami Heat is not just a good owner, he is a great owner and has been for over 15 years.  Just today as my nephew and I were driving home after receiving haircuts, I asked him this question "Name some teams that were terrible in your youth that are still terrible today?", and his answer did not disappoint.  After what seemed like mere seconds he stated that the Los Angeles Clippers were the team that has been historically bad in his opinion.  Donald Sterling has been the owner of the Clippers since 1981 and he's considered by many to be the worst owner in all of the four major sports.  Futility seems to be the Clippers strong point and has been for the last 41 years.  In their inception, they were know as the Buffalo Braves "1970-78", they then moved to San Diego and became the Clippers "78-84" and finally  they made the move to Los Angeles in 1984 where they have remained to this day.  The Clippers futility is based on a grand total of six winning seasons since 1970 and only two of those winning seasons came after the 1984 season.

Responsibility is almost as powerful of a weapon in this battle that we call life as freewill and in the world of professional athletics, freewill is akin to free agency.  Citizens who are sympathetic towards the owners, to big business will point out that over the years there's been players who've been irresponsible with their earnings and have been forced to file for bankruptcy due to financial mismanagement.  There's multiple examples of players who overspend on cars, house, and their entourages which yes includes various women and at times a multitude of children and after all of the cheers and adulation are gone, they do pay the ultimate price but responsibility has no class distinction, no race barriers, no age requirements, for responsibility touches us all.  I said that to say this, a segment of players have been irresponsible with their earnings but haven't some owners also?  How many horrendous contracts have we seen the owners green light since the last NBA lockout but you must remember that in a league where the perception is the owners can do no wrong, who's there to hold them accountable?  Bad owners make bad decisions and then they expect a league shut down to take place to fix their bad decision making, but if history always repeats itself then the problem will never be fixed.  Cutting players salaries will not, I repeat will fix the NBA business model because the mentality of the owners has and will never change.

Just recently we saw Major League Baseball take over the Los Angeles Dodgers due to a lack of responsibility on the owners part.  For example, Frank McCourt, owner of the Dodgers paid his sons $600,000 annually despite the fact that one of those sons already had another full time job.  Another example of a severe lack of responsibility arose when it was revealed that McCourt had paid 71 year old "Healer" over $100,000 to send positive energy to the Dodgers in order to produce wins.  MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in a statement said that he had great concerns about the Dodgers and that he made the move "I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interest of the club, as you mentioned, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball."  "To protect the best interest of the club....and all of Major League Baseball" that one quote speaks volumes because Selig unlike David Stern actually held the party whom was personal responsible for the franchise's financial demise liable.  

Donald Sterling
Frank McCourt loses his team to the MLB for his poor decision making but Donald Sterling continues to own an NBA franchise because he usually turns a profit at the expense of his own team.  By failing to open his checkbook to draw top talent, Sterling has seemingly sacrificed wins just to turn a profit which makes him a "good" owner in the eyes of Stern.  If I'm not mistaken, doesn't Stern want all 30 of his NBA franchises to turn a profit?  Would he allow them all to turn profits at the expense of winning?  It does seems as if that's the perception that Stern is pushing and selling the idea of profitability has been one of his strong points as of yet but now he's paying the ultimate price for his fatal flaw.  The NBA's owners have become their own worst enemy in the lawless land of Stern, the same Stern who acts as judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to terrible displays of personal responsibility on the part of the players.  Sterling for the most part has been out of control as an NBA owner based on being accused of sexual harassment multiple times, discriminating against African Americans and Latinos, and also being caught heckling current and former players of the Clippers Chris Kaman and Baron Davis.  Perhaps Sterling's most despicable act came in 2004 when then assistant coach Kim Hughes was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Sterling refused to cover the cost of the surgery which was at least $70, 000 which prompted Clippers players at the time Cory Maggette, Chris Kaman, Marko Jaric, and Elton Brand to help their ailing coach cover the medical costs.  Ladies and gentlemen I bring you today Donald Sterling, the prototype of what a great NBA owner should be based on the lawless views of David Stern.  The reality of the matter is that owners like Donald Sterling are responsible for the league being what is today, a league that's been dominated by only 9 franchises in the last 30 years while others remain irrelevant by not maximizing the values of their franchises by simply putting a winning product on the court night after night.

Perception or Reality
For the 28.7% of fans who blame the players for the current NBA lockout, I would caution you not to make hast judgments when it comes to the players.  The players are just the work force, but it's the owners who created a system where they would have to bend to the needs of the players.  Most have sold their collective souls for so called "talent" only to be disappointed in the long run.  Grossly overpaying for talent that ultimately fails to meet one's expectations is an example of the owners showcasing their poor sense of financial responsibility and shutting down the league in order to "fix" the problem is false ideology.  The league as is doesn't need a fix, the false perceptions of Stern and his minions is the issue that needs to be fixed, shut down.    I've often heard that the truth hurts and that some have a hard time owning up to the many truths of the world about one's own life in and out of the world of business.  I offer you this truth, a bit of reality that no one wants to face...the owners have committed murder and now they are trying to frame the players for the crime all the while disguising it as owners wanting to take the power back from the players.  During the lockout of 1998/99 the owners asked for a soft cap and mid level exceptions but now they shun it in favor of a lowered hard cap.  If the owners really wanted to gain "control" of the players, they would do away with free agency....Did I really just say that?  It's a radical idea but also an idea that the owners won't entertain because their motives isn't what they say they are.  Controlling the players was never the goal, using them as scapegoats was but no matter how much the system is manipulated to put the blame on the players for the bad decisions on the part of the owners, the players will always have the last laugh.  I pray that this game of pimps and hoes that the Nation Basketball Association is playing with its players backfires on the league and the pimp like rule of Commissioner David Stern.  It's quite possible that Proposition Joe of The Wire had the right solution for disputes such as the one between the players and the owners.

Proposition Joe

Proposition Joe: "I'm doing like one of them marriage counselors. Charge by the hour to tell some fool he need to bring some flowers home. Then charge another hour telling the bitch she oughta suck some cock every little once in a while. You know, keep a marriage strong like that."

Ladies and Gentlemen, the damn thing was just done!  Stern and his owners are the one's who should prepare themselves to start sucking now.