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NBA dropped ball in this CBA
No offense to Curt Flood, but unrestricted free agency has outlived its usefulness and fairness in professional sports.
With superstar athletes earning anywhere from $18 million to $25 million a year in salary and players as a whole guaranteed a healthy percentage of revenue, it is not unreasonable or Draconian for ownership to exercise some control over where LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and others play during the peak of their careers.
Flood and professional athletes of previous generations never participated in an economic partnership with ownership. The "reserve clause" that they struck down was a tool used to unfairly control player salaries and keep them from earning their market value.
That is no longer the case. Player salaries are basically decided during the collective bargaining process. In the latest NBA agreement, the players agreed to receive 50 percent of basketball-related income. This agreement reaffirms the players’ investment in the overall growth of the league.
The NFL figured this out and developed the "franchise player" stipulation that allows teams to hold onto their brightest stars. The NFL’s modified version of unrestricted free agency is one of many reasons the NFL brand is stronger and more profitable than the NBA brand. The NFL is the one sports league that doesn’t need a franchise in Los Angeles to survive and thrive.
Meanwhile, now that free-agent-to-be Chris Paul has forced his way out of New Orleans, the NBA is on the verge of stocking its two LA franchises with three of the five best young players (Paul, Blake Griffin and eventually Dwight Howard) in the league.
The NBA, with its global appeal, should rival the NFL as an economic force. That will never happen as long as the players see themselves solely as individual commodities.
Obviously, an opportunity was blown during the latest NBA lockout. David Stern and ownership did not take advantage of their chance to remake the NBA system. They settled for an additional 7 percent of basketball-related income rather than a system that would lead to steady growth. Their greed reflects the era in which we live. We don’t fix problems in America. We reach into the next guy’s pocket and pretend our problems are solved.
Rather than making repeated threats about reducing players’ basketball-related income to 47 percent, the league should’ve been offering the players 53 percent of BRI in exchange for a complete overhaul of the system.
Right now everyone is focused on Stern’s lack of credibility with the players. During the heat of the lockout, Bryant Gumbel compared Stern to a plantation overseer, and now Stern’s former media defenders are agreeing with Gumbel because of the commissioner’s heavy-handed handling of Chris Paul’s trade to Los Angeles.
Stern’s biggest problem is with ownership, not the players. If Stern had a firm grip on the men who pay his salary, he would’ve handled the lockout negotiations far differently. It wouldn’t have devolved into a quick cash grab. If league ownership had faith in Stern’s vision, the lockout would’ve been focused on installing a system that put the NBA in position to chase down the NFL. Owners and players would win in that scenario. Instead, the lockout produced no winner, only pain, embarrassment and hard feelings.
In the business world, pain without gain produces unemployment.
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I guess that is why two of the foremost authorities on the NBA — Bill Simmons and Adrian Wojnarowski — agree that it is time for Stern’s reign to end. His leadership is stale.
Just like in his handling of the Paul trade, I have very little doubt that Stern’s intentions and instincts are correct. By vetoing the Lakers trade, Stern wound up getting a better deal from the Clippers for Chris Paul. Stern did not become the idiot commissioner overnight. He’s still smart.
He’s simply compromised by the situation. The players are spoiled, shortsighted, delusional, immature and tired of his voice. The owners are spoiled, shortsighted, delusional, tired of his voice and Wall Street greedy.
It’s going to take a new voice to excite NBA ownership about a system overhaul. Stern had his shot to catch the NFL during the Michael Jordan era.
I wouldn’t make Stern’s deputy, Adam Silver, the next commissioner. I’d get someone from the NFL, someone who could make the players see that giving up a little freedom will put more money in everyone’s pockets.
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