Many people like myself are questioning why the NBA continues its strike/lock out. Basketball is the fastest growing sport in China and other Asian countries. It is a popular Olympic sport with high international visibility. There are changes in the technology of sports broadcasting and consumption making it possible for fans all over the world to follow their favorite players and teams. Yet players, owners, and even fans do not realize what a big mistake it is to continue the strike. Major League Baseball has a history of combative labor relations between its owners and players. The players regularly threaten to strike for more money or hold out for more money or free agency. The owners claim they are not making money yet no MLB team has true open book accounting. This combative relationship is what led to a diminished fan base in the 1980’s and a surge in popularity for the National Football League.
Currently, there are more appealing sports and entertainment options for Americans to spend their money and time and the longer the NBA strike persists the more likely those fans will never come back. Examples of other attractions include NCAA basketball, football, soccer, baseball, movies, music, and many others. Additionally, Americans now spend less money and leisure time (as a percentage of their income) attending sports compared to Europeans or Latin Americans.
Unfortunately, as with any sport, the nature of the game itself is not enough to attract the interest of the mass public. Professional basketball must develop and promote players and coaches who embody the personality traits and style that fit the fan’s tastes. This has been a problem in the NBA, which is often connected to fighting or promoting the ultra rich lifestyle of its most successful stars. It appears as if ego is preventing the NBA players from agreeing to a salary cap which is essential for the leagues survival.
In summary, the key issues preventing an NBA labor agreement are the addition of a “hard” salary cap and open book accounting. Owners must be willing to open their books and share profits, so if the league grows through expanding its fan base in China and other markets, the players can earn a percentage of those profits. Players should be willing to take a smaller percentage in guaranteed compensation and be willing to profit as the NBA pie grows internationally. Let’s hope the level heads succeed and convince a majority to put their disagreements and grudges aside for the good of professional basketball.