According to a CBS Sports report, NBA owners hope to cut players’ salaries by $750 million in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NBA is also open to contraction in order to help the league regain profitability.
Wait, what? Contraction? You mean getting rid of teams? Yup. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Perhaps the most optimistic report yet about the potential lockout came from Chris Sheridan, who predicted a 60-70% chance that the owners and players’ union will settle before a lockout. Which means there’s a 30-40% chance that no NBA basketball will be played come next October. Fuck. Optimistic, huh?
Without the NBA, my life would have no meaning. I’m almost completely serious. I wake up at six in the morning and read about basketball for two hours. Then I write about basketball for another five or six. Then I watch basketball games every night. Then I write some more thoughts about basketball. Then I fall asleep while thinking about basketball, and once I’m sleeping I dream about basketball. What am I going to write about if a lockout occurs, golf? What am I going to think about, soccer? Yuck and yuck.
I watch SportsCenter to see basketball highlights, then I watch them again on NBA TV, and then I go on YouTube to re-watch them. I refresh my Twitter timeline a bajillion times to see other people’s thoughts about a nice play, or a big game, or even a meaningless blowout between the Pacers and Timberwolves. I eat, sleep and breathe about basketball. And I love every second of it. God, how I love the game James Naismith created.
Basketball takes my breath away. The deft skill and vision behind a simple bounce pass to a trailing cutter. The exquisite footwork of a fadeaway jumper. The angles elite rebounders take after a loose ball, or the best defenders take to stay in front of their opponents, or a slasher takes during his foray to the hoop. The sound of a ball bouncing on a hardwood floor, and the squeaking of shoes. Ah, the glorious squeaking of shoes. And now David Stern and Billy Hunter are thinking about taking that game away from me, all because billionaire owners and millionaire players want to preserve every last penny they feel entitled to?
The NBA owes it to me, to every hardcore fan like me, to come to an amicable agreement without locking out. We hardcore fans spend our lives analyzing basketball games and basketball plays. We go to the barber shop and talk about last night’s game, and we put the TV on during dinner even when it pisses off our family (“But Mom, it’s a huge game!” — “Jay, it’s just the freaking preseason!”). We spend $160 on NBA League Pass, even though we’re broke college students who can barely afford groceries. We buy t-shirts of our favorite teams, and jerseys of our favorite players. Unlike NBA players, we don’t get paid millions of dollars to do the thing we love most. But we collectively do pay billions of dollars to watch people do the thing we love most. That has to count for something, right?
In his “optimistic” piece, Chris Sheridan wrote that the NBA should settle its labor situation prior to a lockout partly because “if there is a work stoppage, history has shown it takes about five years to build a business back to where it was before the stoppage.” But shit, Stern and Hunter, don’t come to an agreement for you, or for the owners, or for the players. Come to an agreement for me. Come to an agreement for everybody like me.
An NBA lockout would keep the NBA from expanding at its current rate, from encouraging new fans to love the game. But it’s the ones who already love it who would be most affected.