50/50: The NBA Lockout of 2011

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Friday, October 07, 2011 with No comments
Film 50/50
   What does one think of when they hear the phrase 50/50?  Do they think of the percentage that 50/50 represents, yes or no, right or wrong, or even life or death?  Do they think of the film that opened on September 30th that featured the likes of Joseph Gordan-Levitt and Seth Rogen which was based on the life of the film's screen writer Will Reiser who had a bout with cancer?  At this point in time neither of those things come to mind if someone were to ask me what 50/50 represented and yes I do acknowledge that this month we are celebrating Nation Breast Cancer Awareness Month as both of my parents have had their own bouts with that terrible disease.  What comes to mind when I hear 50/50 is the owners of the NBA forcing the players of the league to accept a 50/50 split when it comes to Basketball Related Income "BRI" in exchange for allowing the players to resume their careers in the NBA.

One thing that I would like the casual NBA fan to understand is that this isn't a player strike.  The players of the NBA would rather
be out playing basketball as evident by the number of exhibition games that have taken place throughout the summer.  A few months back when I wrote Perception or Reality I had every reason to believe that the owners, the caretakers of the game, would come to an agreement with the Nation Basketball Players Association "NBPA" without any form of significant blood loss but I just found out how wrong I was.  The majority of owners are driven by the urge to turn a profit rather than supply the fans with the game we love.  The reality is that this lockout is about Greed as the Closer so eloquently stated with his piece The Lockout is Called Greed, but it is the greed of the owners and not the players.  Instead of the owners taking personal responsibility for their own actions by just showing restraint, they have painted this picture of the greedy player who'd rather sit out a season than take a 50/50 split.  At this point in time where 22 of 30 NBA franchises allegedly incurred financial loses, the players earn 57% of BRI and they have offered to lower that percentage to 53% during recent discussions between the Owners and the Players union with each 1% representing about $40 million dollars.  With that said, the players have already given up about $160 million dollars.

Adam Silver
Just a mere hour ago, word broke on twitter via Ken Berger of CBS that the NBA has refused to meet with the Players Union before Monday's deadline of having regular season games lost if the players don't agree to a 50/50 split of BRI beforehand.  In many facades of life, a 50/50 split may sound fair but consider this for a moment, how fair is a 50/50 split when it is being divided between 30 owners and 450 players?  The Players  Union is trying to set a meeting up at this very moment but the owners are being extremely closed mind at this time, again they are the supposed to be the caretakers of the game we love but there's more.  The average career of a player in the NBA is 4.5 years and to that player, the non superstar, the lockout means even more;  a 50/50 split would represent about $280 million in loses for the players over the course of their playing career.  As of now, the first two weeks of the regular season are scheduled to be canceled Monday when the league office in New York reopens and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver recently commented on today's news:

“What we told the union was that we were not prepared to negotiate over the B.R.I. split beyond the 50-50 concept that had already been discussed.......the league was prepared to continue negotiating over the many other issues that remain open”

The issues that remain open are the salary cap system, the length of future contracts, and the luxury tax.  

Perhaps the saddest thing of all in this situation is that the owners of the NBA are taking advantage of the public interest, most of the casual fans could care less about the NBA and there's more sinister causes behind that at play but in a time where America is facing it's largest economic crisis in decades, public interest in the plight of the players is vacant.  The sentiment is that players should sell their collective souls to the wants and desries of the owners and gravel at their feet, begging for their jobs back.......I think not!  Just a week ago during a negotiating session it was widely reported that Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat had a heated exchange with NBA Commissioner David Stern and asked him not to speak to the players as if they were his children.  

Derek Fisher & Dwyane Wade
As insignificant as it was to some, it was a power statement for the players.  In all my years of following the NBA, I've never seen nor heard of someone firing back at Stern, especially to his face as Wade had done.  After news of the exchange broke, Media Personality Bomani Jones tweeted that D-Wade is a G because he knows as do I that no one has stood up to Stern during his tenure as NBA Commissioner.  What made Wade's stance so powerful is that he represents the selfless NBA player who'd sacrifice for the benefit of winning.  Wade could have earned the "Joe Johnson" contract of $119 million over six years but instead he made the sacrifice of around $19 million to allow the Miami Heat to sign Lebron James as well as Chris Bosh in an effort to win another NBA title, a title that Joe Johnson is still searching for.  Wade is arguably the third greatest shooting guard in the history, only behind Kobe Bryant and of course Michael Jordan and there he was standing up to perhaps the most powerful commissioner in sports.....David Stern.  In a room with players Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul Pierce, it was Wade's voice that resonated the loudest, coincidence, I think not.  Wade was not only protecting himself, a franchise player but he was also protecting the role players of the NBA, the little guys, the hard workers such as teammate Udonis Haslem.  His voice needed to be heard, his passion needed to be felt.  

In various life situations I often ask myself, What's the endgame?  As of now we know, the first two weeks of the regular season will be canceled come Monday if some miracle doesn't happen between now and then and it's widely believed that the players are willing to sit out the season rather than take a deal that they are being strong armed into accepting.  So how will this all end?  At this point in time I only have one answer; as Al Michaels once famously asked "Do you believe in miracles?", my answer would be a resounding yes I do!