Labourious Indeed

December 19, 2010

The NBA will suffer a ‘work stoppage’ next season.  Don’t take my word for it.  Take Billy Hunter’s; he’s head of the player’s union:  “I’d be 99 percent sure as of today there will be a lockout.” That’s what he told the NY Times, and confirms the odds I’d been offering bets at (and still am; takers email me).

Not only that, but there are indications that this ‘labour dispute’ could screw NBA fans out of some of the 82 game regular season, and possibly jeopardize the whole year.  At the same time, it provides an unusual window into cartel economics, and potential insight into the economy and world at large.  These are subjects for another day, however.  Today we examine the unfortunate portents.

The NBA played a 50 game season in ’98-99 due to this same nonsense, and as usual history rhymes.  The most striking similarity is not one of simple facts and figures, but the ominous and unmistakable presence of stupidity.  In 1998, the big league basketball had ‘labour’ negotiations in which the owner’s primary stated goal was to decrease the amount of basketball-related income going to player salaries, which was 57%.  On April 1st of 1998, the NBPA offered the league a deal which included clauses for slowing down the increase in the salary cap if player salaries exceeded 63% of basketball revenues.   If I may translate the players union’s offer:  ‘We recognize your emergency, and have suggestions for dealing with them, should they get much, much worse.’  The owners, for their part, may or may not have staged walking out of a meeting in disgust (see Karl Malone quote below the poll).

This time around, we have the owners coming out with their numbers, which say they are losing money, and the NBPA response is that they don’t believe the numbers.  That’s right; they implied fraud on the part of the owners.  The owners appear not to know why salaries have continued to increase.  By the way:  57% again.

The main issues are the hardness of the cap, and the owner’s desire to institute what I’ll call the ‘Sean Kemp rule,’ wherein if you sign a 50 million dollar contract, and actually spend the whole thing on donuts, the team gets to take back half.  How they expect to collect is uncertain, but I’m looking forward to some mighty hefty bags of day-olds, sometime in the distant future, when the NBA has a new collective bargaining agreement.

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/32/basketball-values-09_NBA-Team-Valuations_Rank.html

Hilarious quotes and ‘The moral of the story’

Newsweek

“An incomprehensible and unconscionable dispute between rival gangs of millionaires.”

Tony Kornheiser

“between tall millionaires and short millionaires.”

Karl Malone

“like a 4-year-old saying I don’t want to play anymore and I’m going home,”

The moral of the story is: Everyone close your web browser, open something work related, and go ask your boss for a raise.  Hey!  You never know.  Then come back, reopen your web-browser, and go here for more information.

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