Thursday, October 6, 2011

NBA Lockout: Dollars, Dwyane Wade & De-Certification

Who needs a dollar in the NBA Lockout and what’s the difference between what players deserve and what they negotiate?

Who Needs A Dollar?
Aloe Blacc’s great song, “I Need A Dollar”, describes the descent of a laid off employee into homelessness and alcoholism because he’s too reliant on others for money, whether it’s his employer or passersby on the street. The record became popular as the theme song for the HBO series, “How To Make It In America,” about two struggling entrepreneurs in New York City.

As stated in a previous post, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum stated the way to make it in America in the 21st century is to create your own job.

NBA owners are singing that they need a dollar in their negotiations with the NBPA and asked the players to give them significant sums of money. Etan Thomas, executive first vice president of the NBPA, outlined their requests in this article at

Dwyane Wade may argue, however, that NBA stars have already given back significant sums of money by playing under a collective bargaining agreement that reduces their salary from what they’re actually worth (at least $50 million) to a maximum salary capped at $19 million last season.

What Players Deserve vs. What Players Negotiate
The on-court production of the Miami Heat’s three stars was only worth $75 million last season, according to the “Cost Efficiency” article published on this blog in July. That means they would have to be worth $75 million to the Heat off the court.

LeBron James produced an estimated 17.5 wins last season worth $30.9 million in the NBA market (the average cost of a win was $1.8 million in 2011). LeBron was only paid $14.5 million in salary. That means he gave the owners $16.4 million under the old CBA last season.

Wade produced an estimated 14.6 wins last season worth $25.8 million. He was only paid $14.2 million in salary. He essentially gave the owners $11.6 million under the old CBA.

Chris Bosh produced an estimated 10.3 wins last season worth $18.1 million. Bosh was only paid $14.5 million in salary. He essentially gave the owners $3.6 million under the old CBA.

The Heat stars deserved $75 million last season but only negotiated $43 million in salary. If LeBron, Wade and Bosh wanted to close that $32 million gap, then they would have to do what Friedman and Mandelbaum suggested and create their own jobs by starting their own league.

Ras Kass said it best on his song “The Music of Business”
“In business, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate and everything is re-negotiable...”

If stars like Wade, LeBron and Bosh don’t have the entrepreneurial spirit to start their own league, then the only option they would have to get the compensation they deserve would be to de-certify the union.

De-certification may not be a good tactic for the players as a whole, as Thomas pointed out in his article, but it’s the only option for stars to gain the leverage to negotiate their own deals without salary cap restrictions in a CBA.

The risk star players take pushing for de-certification is that the owners could collude and still refuse to pay them what their production on the court is actually worth. That’s why the players began collectively bargaining as a union in the first place.

The problem NBA stars have is they’re a minority in the NBPA. If the rank and file players vote for the NBPA to accept a bad proposal from the owners, then the gap between what the stars deserve and what they negotiate could grow bigger.

If the stars suspect that scenario will take place, then they’re better off forcing a vote to de-certify the union earlier rather than later and use the agents as leverage to get the votes required for de-certification.

Previous HEATcasts discussed the different reporting during the lockout and Sports Illustrated seems to have taken the position that players don’t have enough money to sustain themselves during a lockout and will give in to the owners, as this article illustrates.

Sports Illustrated has taken this position despite the fact the NBPA has prepared players for missing more than one season the last two years and it seems like the players followed those guidelines and saved their money if Kevin Love and Stephen Jackson are any indication. And if any players haven’t followed the NBPA’s financial guidance, then Kobe Bryant offered to put money into a lockout fund for players that need help making it through the lockout.

That’s where the stars stand in the lockout - with the rank and file members of the NBPA (according to David Aldridge on Despite the possibility they could be screwed by the lesser talented players, the stars are standing with them because only one fact matters, as Thomas said: 

“If the players don't stick together, [the owners] will crush them. Period”

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