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With NBA lockout there are plenty of losers, but it starts with fans

Jul 1, 2011, 8:02 AM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

The NBA locks out and there are tons of losers.

It’s not the owners and the players. Sure, they are shooting their own business in the foot, but when it is all said and done the owners will be insanely wealthy and the players will still make a lot of money playing a game. It’s hard for fans to relate to. Or put it this way, if my bosses at NBC want to pay me the NBA rookie minimum salary (more than $400,000 last year) I will gladly accept that pay raise.

The losers are they guy who owns the pub across the street from the arena who counts on those 42 nights a year to keep his business going (as do the bartenders and waiters and chefs who need to pay rent). The losers are the security guards and ushers who are staying home and not being paid. It is the team assistant athletic trainers who got laid off and don’t know when they will go back to work. It is countless other people who count on the NBA financially that have no say in the negotiations.

But mostly, it’s the fans. The fans are the ones getting screwed again.

This is all a fight over how to divide up the fans money. They are the ones that buy the tickets, buy the beer and hot dogs in the arena, who buy the jerseys, who watch the games on television and visit the Web sites. It is their money and they eyeballs on the set that drive the revenue for this league, that revenue the players and owners get about $4 billion of a year but can’t figure out how to divide.

It’s the fans in Sacramento who fought so hard to convince the powers that be in the NBA of their support for the Kings franchise, how they would get a new arena built in the city. A project that is going to take public money. A project that is going to take corporate sponsor dollars. A project that is going to take a lot of season tickets — which were selling fast after the team drafted Jimmer Fredette. An extended lockout could kill that momentum and lead to the city losing its team.

It’s the fans in Memphis who suffered through years and years of bad team and finally saw their team win their first playoff game this April. Then their first playoff series. A starved fan base finally getting to taste some success in the NBA with players they can rally behind. They are excited about next season, just in time to have it threatened.

It is like that for 28 other teams as well.

After the 1998-99 lockout both sides admitted they had to win the fans back, but they did. The fans did return. But if there is a lengthy lockout in this economy — if they are arguing over millions in salary and hundreds of millions in profits while the nation struggles out of the worst recession in generations — it will be much harder to win casual fans back. The road back will be harder.

The owners and players have to think long and hard about the repercussions if this drags out. The fans are the losers in all this. And if the fans feel alienated through this they will not come back nearly as fast or in the same numbers they did last time.

Nobody likes to be the loser. And with this lockout, there would be a lot of them.

  1. jizzojames - Jul 1, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    I didn’t even have to read this article to agree. I’ve been a basketball fan ever since I can remember. I remember playing the game as youngster with my older brothers and cousins, and friends. I could play the game and watch the game at any level, and now to know that there’s a lockout sickens me. The last lockout was bad enough, but it was the post Jordan era. Now with The ending of Kobe’s era, Shaq retiring and the begining of new talent such as D. Rose, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin a lockout really hurts, not to even mention the NFL lockout. I’m very glad for college sports.

  2. cowtownrob - Jul 1, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Couldn’t agree more. Well said Kurt.

  3. tashkalucy - Jul 1, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I showed up here to comment because of the NFL strike. Don’t follow the 3 team MLB (Red Sox, Yankees, Phils – as ESPN and the rest of he national media cover the sport). And got tired of going to ProFootballTalk and seeing a bunch of strike negotiation rumors along with silly tidbits like where players are working out, and who said what about a player on a radio talk show. Not Florio’s fault – I tune in to see the coming and goings of teams what teams in the league are doing on the field…but they’e not on the field.

    But now the same thing is happening with the NBA. All these pictures of Stern and Hunter along with nonsensical comment’s they make trying to get fans to take one side or the others, only to unify at some point in the future to tell us how swell the other side is when they want to take our money again. Who cares?

    Good luck Kurt and the others. Sorry you won’t have anything to write abut for the next year-plus. It would have been nice if you told he fans the truth – the battle is the owners that are in debt up to their eyeballs – most of whom have no one to sell their teams to – on one side, and the players along with their agents, national TV (ESPN/ABC and TNT) and sponsors that use the NBA as their personal ATM without having to invest any of their own money to buy a team. The players – using their agents, ESPN and their sponsors (primarily Nike) have already turned a private league into their personal AAU teams….i.e. it’s their playground and the all-stars control who plays on which teams and who gets to keep playing on the court….the all-stars monopolize the court most of the day, the younger guys can take it when the sun starts setting, and if a few of hem become good those guys can et a shot on the all-stars team when they walk away from the playground.

    This one is going to be like the NHL year-long shutdown. The players have been coddled so by their business partners and coaches that suck up to them to make their livings, that they actually believe that the world revolves around them. Same as the NHL players did years ago. Owners losing tens of millions of dollars a year and having no one out there that wants to buy their franchise, tend to figure out pretty quick that they’ve been had and are not going to play the fool much longer. And most importantly, the fans in those markets realize that the field is not level, and there is no use being loyal to their local team, the star players are just to to up and leave claiming they “have to do what;’s best for my family” – the same players that don’t marry or live with the mothers of their children, and sign contracts for the same or even less then the fans team offered them.

    Bottom line – MLB is for the large markets and a playtoy of the players, their agents TV and the sponsors. The fans in the other markets will take what they’re given and like it.The NFL is a product for the fans, teams in all markets have a chance if their front offices and coaching staffs do well in acquiring players and coaching them up. The NBA has been becoming MLB for years now.

    The NBA is totally out of control. I expect a year will not be enough to bring reality to the league.

    • LPad - Jul 1, 2011 at 11:56 AM

      these are the same owners that would make money if they followed the revenue sharing systems in the NFL and MLB would make money every year.

      Also, players have been doing what LeBron did for decades in every sport. Why exactly would a player that decides he want to switch teams go play with a bunch of guys he doesn’t like or get along with?

      For example, lets say the lockout goes a full year JKidd doesn’t come back because of the lockout. Nash is also considering retirement, but sees there’s an opening on the Mavs and decides that he wants to go play with Dirk again because their good friends and he has a chance to win rather than retire. So he goes to the Suns front office and says “I want to play for Mavs or I’m going to retire.” The Mavs and Suns are able to work out a trade so Nash ends up playing with the Mavs. Is that really a bad thing?

      • tashkalucy - Jul 1, 2011 at 12:22 PM


        You’re missing the point.

        This is not one guy wanting to go play with a buddy.

        This is an orchastrated effort from CCA (players reps), Nike and ESPN to move all-stars in groups of 3’s to teams in large/glamour markets. ESPN gave the Heat publicity that no network had ever given a team. They shoved the Heat down Americas throats 24/7. It resulted in increased national rating for their telecasts. Anthony forced a trade the Knicks (he also would have gone to the Nets) which Lebron James pushed for at a press conference during all-star week, ignoring NBA bylaws that players and management are not to publicly discuss potential player trades. Later in the year Anthony went on NY radio and said that Chris Paul would be coming to the Knicks, and that Deron Williams would be getting all-star teammates with the Nets.

        This is a bunch of kids thinking they can run the NBA.

        If you don”t see that I don’t know if what’s in front of your two eyes registers.

      • LPad - Jul 1, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        I don’t know tashkalucy. ESPN shoves a lot of things down people’s throat (including, the Cavs when LeBron was there). But, it doesn’t mean that ESPN convinced LeBron to move to Miami.

        For example, the Red Sox and Yankees are shoved down our throat by ESPN. Every Yankee/Red Sox game doesn’t need to be on national tv. I don’t like it, but it hasn’t ruined the game. And I don’t think they told ARod to go to NY.

        As far as players forcing trades, it happens all the time in every sport. How do you think Kareem ended up on the Lakers. What about Elway refusing to play in Indy. Eli Manning refusing to play in San Diego? Happens all the time.

        You talk about Melo forcing a trade, but what about the Suns forcing Amare to leave. Amare’s first choice was to stay in Phoenix, but they were worried about his knees. Amare’s in NY because they were less worried about it than Phoenix. Why is it okay for a team to force a player to leave via trade or a low ball offer, but it is wrong for a player to force his way out?

        As far as DWill of course players are going to want to play for one of the elite PGs in the league. Why is this a problem? Players like Boozer went to Utah because they saw how good he was.

        btw, they’re not kids. They’re adults deciding where they want to work. In a world where their careers are defined by championships, why wouldn’t they best position themselves to win? Wouldn’t you?

      • mogogo1 - Jul 1, 2011 at 1:58 PM

        I’ve never understood how Melo’s situation gets lumped in with LeBron’s. Melo grew up in the NYC area, played college ball in NY, has friends and family there. The only tie he ever had to Denver is the fact they drafted him. He was great with the Nuggets for years and even extended his contract once. When this contract finally ran out he decided to go play back East. That’s not the end of the world. Everybody loves it when their team picks up a guy via free agency or a trade, but the second they lose somebody they think the sky is falling.

        And as for all these “threesomes” that are supposedly going to dominate the league, I’m going to wait until there’s more than one example to get worked up about it. There aren’t that many all-stars who would be willing to play third fiddle when they could be the guy someplace else and it’s tough to have three max salaries and have anything left over for a supporting cast.

  4. florida727 - Jul 1, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Unfortunately, fans won’t “respond in kind”. Once the lockout ends, and eventually of course it will, fans should boycott the NBA until their pricing comes more in line with what the economy is doing. People across the country, by and large, are struggling just to make mortgage payments. But there’s just enough out there that CAN afford to spend a few hundred bucks (per game) to take their families and enjoy the entertainment. The NBA has no incentive to make their product more affordable to the masses. Supply and demand I suppose. As long as a few can pay the freight, the rest will watch on TV.

  5. LPad - Jul 1, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    I’m a very big basketball fan and a huge NBA fan, but I have to say I don’t feel that bad about the lockout. And I’m definitely not as concerned about it as the bartenders, waitresses, ushers, etc. who rely on the game to pay their rent and mortages. I’ll be disappointed if they miss games like they did in 1999, but I’ll worry about that when it happens. And if it does so what? I’ll just watch more college basketball. When the NBA comes back, I’ll be watching games just like I did before. Maybe, I just have a different take than other people, but both sides have the right to work out their issues and if it means missing games then so be it. I mean it even puts some extra cash in my pocket since I won’t be at the concession stand.

  6. jcarne9014 - Jul 1, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Let’s look at this from the perspective of a parent with a “normal” child…

    A college offers a free education for my kid. In addition, he will be treated like royalty on campus, have pretty much free “access” to the opposite sex, and will be introduced to a network of business leaders that will bend over backwards to help him after college.

    After receiving his free education, my son works an “internship” for a little over 3 years and will receive a stake of approximately $8 million* to get his life “started.”
    *The average NBA salary is $5 million per year and the average career lasts just over 3 years. Assume 50% will go to taxes.

    So, at age 25 my son will have a college degree, $8 million in the bank, and access to a network of business leaders.

    Tell me, what parent would not sign up for that right now?! Frankly, if my kid has half a brain, he would never have to “work” again.

    I am not taking sides here. But to listen to these multi-millionaires try to figure out how best to divvy up the money that we provide to them is sickening. I could not possibly care less about their “issues.”

  7. tonysoparano - Jul 1, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    The headline could be more correct. Fans of this horrible product are losers.

  8. proudtobeliberal - Jul 1, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    I think the headline says it all . . . . “With NBA lockout there are plenty of losers, but it starts with fans”

    The money and time dedicated to supporting those prima donnas is ridiculous, and anyone that considers spending any significant amount of time watching them in person or on TV is . . . well, in my opinion . . . a loser.

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:26 AM

      For a guy who seems to hate the NBA you spent a lot of time commenting in this blog today. Odd.

  9. fattycoats - Jul 1, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Fans are biggest losers in NBA lockout…..

    Thanks captain obvious. Your like the John Madden of sports writing.

  10. sdelmonte - Jul 1, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    I’m not losing anything. If anything, I am gaining time to follow other things and money to spend elsewhere. This is just a game to me. It’s not my livelihood or my investment. Do I like that it comes to this? No. But it’s not like this is labor dispute involving something vital. And there is always something else to do for most of us.

  11. denverdude7 - Jul 1, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    The biggest losers in the NBA lockout are both the players and the owners. Same goes for the NFL & MLB.

    The tail is wagging the the dog in every sport. The owners are too stupid or just too greedy to put a stop to it. The players keep demanding more and getting it.

    While the rest of the country is taking a pay cut or losing their jobs altogether, the NFL, NBA and MLB roll merrily along. We the fans are the biggest schmucks of all for continuing to pay higher and higher prices for everything from tickets to parking to t-shirts. Give me a break, $7+ for a beer? $4+ for a soda? $20+ for a t-shirt?

    I love the NFL. Couldn’t give a rats a$$ about the NBA since Bron-Bron’s “Decision” and never will again. (Nice job Bron-Bron – WHAT A PUTZ)

    Here’s an idea for negotiating with all of them: 50% pay cuts for everyone !!! Take it or leave it. No more negotiating. Then maybe we can buy a beer at game for $3 or park for $5 or buy a t-shirt for $10.

  12. proudtobeliberal - Jul 1, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    Who cares? I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place if all the money spent on pro sports and even college sports was used to better the human condition.

    • dysraw1 - Jul 5, 2011 at 4:44 PM

      Yo proud now your really talking, all these millionaires yet people are still hungry & homeless. go figure

  13. arawis - Jul 1, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    The NFL is the new national sport. The NBA will die from greed, prima donnas, rules that are enforced as the ref’s mood determines. When the performance enhancing drug facts come to light it will be the last nail in its coffin.

  14. ocgunslinger - Jul 1, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    4 Billion a year and they can’t figure out how to divide it up? The word “Stupid” applies equally to both management and the players union equally. And if they lose any games next year it will be due to Greed and the loses will never be made up for either. You pick the most “Stupid” side and you won’t be wrong.

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