There is a new air surrounding the Sixers this year. That happens when a new ownership group comes in and looks ready to change the entire culture of the organization. There’s one major problem: will there even be an NBA season?
Wisdom says, “yes, of course.” It is probably true. Everyone saw how the NFL lockout turned out and believes the NBA will have the same happy ending. In reality, there are major differences in the two labor disputes.
First, from a business perspective, the NFL is much more profitable than the NBA. This may not seem too important, but it gives the NBA owners some leverage in a sense. That may not make sense at first, but it is true. With the NFL being so profitable, both the players and owners were missing out on huge profits with every second of the season missed. In the NBA, the owners are suffering considerably less because the league just is simply not as profitable as the NFL.
Next, NBA players make considerably more money than NFL players. The average NBA salary is over 2.5 times greater than the average NFL salary. This means the NBA players are more desperate to get a deal done than NFL players because they are losing more money with each missed paycheck. When you combine this with the earlier leverage the NBA owners have, it seems as if the owners can do whatever they want to get a great deal and the players will need to make some major concessions. This is one major reason for the owners using stall tactics to ensure their protection in the new CBA.
However, from a legal perspective, there are signs pointing towards a deal to get done.
The players who made average salaries led the legal battle in the NFL lockout. Conversely, in the NBA, the leaders are the superstars. This ties back to the players being willing to make concessions to the owners. Eventually, the average NBA players will become fed up with missed paychecks and do whatever it takes to get a deal done.
Dwayne Wade, an outspoken leader of the players, will not lose a wink of sleep when his paychecks do not come in November. But what about, say, Philly favorite Jodie Meeks? At some point, the players who live paycheck to paycheck will be willing to give up more to get on the court now. The NFL had legal support up and down rosters; it does not seem like that will hold true in the NBA.
The last legal difference is the misconception that players can simply “go overseas,” make similar money and come back after the lockout. Again, Dwyane Wade and Kobe can, most others cannot. A closer inspection of the contracts some of these players would have to sign overseas reveals that foreign teams will require a long-term commitment to stay. Therefore, players cannot up and leave whenever the lockout ends. This takes away the most attractive offer to the average players.
The average players are at a crossroads. They could hold strong with the players and make demands alongside the superstars, or they could create a grassroots player movement to quietly push for a deal while the superstars remain vocal that they will hold out until they reach their demands.
The next few weeks will be very telling on the direction the players are moving. While talks are quiet now, one has to believe they will pick up quickly. Neither side wants to cancel the season, and while the megastars can threaten cancelation, too many other players need to, as Latrell Sprewell would say, “feed their families.” The league obviously will not play a full 82 game season, but a 50 game season seems very plausible at this point.
Let us all just hope we can actually see what the new Sixers owners will bring to the table this year. Worst-case scenario, if the season gets canceled, we can all pretend the Sixers tied for the NBA championship, right?