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NBA Players Should Start New League

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The logo of the NBA Players Association.
In The Battle Over Basketball Related Income, Superstar Players Should Create More Leverage, Legacy


By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 1, 2011 — There is a battle going on in professional basketball over the several billions of dollars that the National Basketball Association hauls in every year. Both sides are standing firm in their quest grab at the vast funds owners, players and front office folks rake in each and every year.

According to an audit released by both the league and the NBA Player’s Association in July, basketball-related income rose from $3.643 billion in 2009 and 2010 to $3.817 billion last season. The players' share increased from $2.076 billion to $2.176 billion, equaling 57 percent of BRI as provided in the recently expired collective bargaining agreement between the league and the union.

According to the league, player compensation increased in each season of the six-year CBA, while the NBA has cited losses in each of the six seasons totaling more than $1.5 billion. While BRI has increased, the owners have said their non-player expenses have risen at a greater rate.

But the fact is that in no other industry anywhere in the world can the “employees” demand — and get — 57 percent of the income as was the case in the last deal. Heck, even 50 percent — what the league would settle for — is a laughable negotiating position for most unions.

The reason the NBA player’s association was able to get that deal is because unlike any other industry, people are the product. The athleticism, skill, tenacity and personality of a great professional basketball player makes the NBA.

The league is about the players and without them, no one makes any money.

Sure, owners say they have annual losses of about $370 million, but according to reporting by ESPN and others, some of that is accounting tricks on the debts accrued by the franchise owners — mainly tied to the purchase of the franchise.

What should be the most important number in all of this is 3.817 billion. That is what the players took from the money that the league generated last year alone. Since the NBA is a player’s league, they should take the next logical step in professional sports — they need to start their own league.

For those unaware of what has happened over the past 60 years or so, players used to be the property of their team and never could because free agents. Salaries were meager. Then with organization and aided by baseball’s Curt Flood, free agency became the norm and the system that has worked well for years.

Now, however, these players have enough money to start their own league — something the players of all sports in the past could never even dream might be possible.

In basketball, it might be easier than in every other sport because the rosters and venues are the smallest of any professional sport. The big money comes from the television deal anyway.

The money is available.

The television money would follow if the big dogs of the league — LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derek Rose and others — would follow. Of course, the players would then own the league and the teams themselves, so the middle man — the owners — would be removed from the equation and those profits could be split.

Sure, this is a revolutionary step that might not work. But it also might work and create a new paradigm for professional sports.

Surely, the NBA would not just go away. The landscape would definitely change and would probably be very much like the early days of the AFL, except the NBA would be forced to play catch up if the superstars are not there. The NBA would be force to try to rebuild with the scraps left from the new league and those just leaving college.

Eventually, two would become one again, but by then, the player’s league might be the one merging the NBA in with them.

Some players are already floating the idea that they might do some “barnstorming” tours and there are players playing all over the country in exhibitions and “pickup leagues.”

One easy step from that is a new league.

At least there would be good basketball on television.

So whattaya say, how does the NPBA — National Players Basketball Association — sound?

Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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