Monday, October 31, 2011

NBA Lockout Cinema: You Can’t Win? Basketball Never Stops

If you think the National Basketball Players Association can’t win in collective bargaining with the NBA, then you need more brains than the Scarecrow in The Wiz.

NBPA Can’t Win?
I’m so sick and tired of people saying the NBPA has no leverage in the NBA lockout. I hope the next person that says it, tweets it, blogs it or publishes it is standing in front of the next round of rubber bullets and tear gas fired at the Occupy Movement.

Was I surprised the front page story on was “Cut off at every turn, union has one choice: Take the deal”? No.

Was I surprised that story was authored by David Aldridge? Yes.

On the October 1st HEATcast, "NBA Lockout Rumors, Sports Media Report Card, Week 4 NFL Picks", I said Aldridge was the most reliable NBA reporter in the media. He made the following statement in his column:

“The union must take the deal now. For it will take a far worse deal a month from now, or later, and lose half a billion or more in the process. No NLRB ruling nor de-certification nor Solidarity Forever chant is going to change that now.”

That’s not how I see the NBA Lockout playing itself out. I will be shocked if the lockout ends with the NBPA agreeing to the NBA’s terms. There are only two ways the lockout ends: with an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board or de-certification of the NBPA.

NLRB Scenario: Stand United
If the NBA doesn’t agree to the NBPA terms, then the players will #StandUnited and wait for the National Labor Relations Board to rule on the case they filed against the NBA. If the NLRB rules in the NBPA’s favor, then the lockout will end and the next season begins under the old collective bargaining agreement, with 57 percent of basketball-related income paid to the players.

The two articles listed below explain the favorable outcomes of the NLRB scenario for the players in more detail.

What if the NLRB doesn’t rule in the NBPA’s favor?

De-certification Scenario: Basketball Never Stops
If the NLRB does not issue an injunction for the NBA to end the lockout, then I think the players will de-certify the NBPA.

The NBA and NBPA are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court for the complaint the league filed to establish that 1) the lockout does not violate antitrust laws and 2) de-certification of the NBPA would void all existing player contracts.

The de-certification scenario was outlined in the Bleacher Report article, “NBA Lockout: European and Asian Invasion Is a Phantom Menace.”

Once NBA contracts become void, the players will be free to play anywhere they want. Basketball never stops.

Some will play overseas. Some will be scabs and join some D-Leaguers to become replacement players in a shitty version of the NBA. Some will join the stars and form their own league.

Where’s the Beef?

So where’s the beef? Why do Aldridge and I see things so differently?

Aldridge clarified on ESPN 980’s Tony Kornheiser Show (skip to the 59:00 mark) that the players could wait for the NLRB ruling at the risk of losing the season.

That’s the difference between us.

Aldridge either doesn’t think the NBPA is willing to miss the entire season or doesn’t want them to miss the entire season. He seems to think that the NLRB case is just an attempt for the players to get leverage on the owners in collective bargaining.

I think the NBPA is in this for keeps just like the NBA owners. The NLRB case is not an attempt for leverage. It’s an attempt to keep what was rightfully theirs in their last CBA. As I stated in the article, “HEAT Check: Occupy the NBA, Part 1”, the players seem to feel that enough is enough.

They let Stern run amok during the last CBA and now they’re resolved to #StandUnited against him. Journalists are used to players choosing money over principle but the 2003 draft class has shown that it’s a new day.

That’s the other difference between me and Aldridge. He’s underestimating this new generation of ballers and I’m not.

Under-Estimating the Post-Black Baller in the Hip Hop Generation

In her book, Post Black, writer Ytasha Womack explains how a new generation is redefining African-American identity. One example of redefinition she cited was the increase of black entrepreneurs in the hip-hop generation. According to Womack, Black men between the ages of 25-35 are more likely to start their own business than any other men in the same age group.

The NBA stars talking about starting their own league fall right into that age bracket.

According to Womack, hip hop entrepreneurs like Sean “Diddy” Combs and Jay-Z had tremendous influence in this area and they’ve established friendships with today’s NBA stars. Diddy and Jay-Z wouldn’t accept a shitty deal from the record industry and the NBA stars they’re friends with won’t either.

As described in the article, "LeBron Shouldn't Take PR Advice From ESPN", the previous generations of players came from poor backgrounds. Today, two-thirds of players don't come from poor, broken homes.

Not to say that money isn't important to this generation of player, but they aren't as desperate for it as the generation that Charles Barkley came from.

Every journalist that underestimates the players’ ability to start their own league is overlooking this phenomenon. The players and the sneaker companies they endorse have told everyone this summer that basketball never stops.

USA Today reported that sneaker companies and retailers could lose up to $500 million during the lockout. Why would they forfeit that money when the players they’ve partnered with are willing to play? 

The Jordan Brand controls 70 percent of the basketball sneaker market. Why would Michael Jordan lose money from the lockout on-and-off the court?

Basketball never stops. If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have to start their own league to keep it going, then so be it.

It’s just a matter of time before the Sneaker Wars begin...

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