We’re going to change things up a bit this week. Instead of awarding a Rogue of the Week and Stupid NBA Move, we’ll be honoring one NBA star who is willing to help out his fellow players should the lockout continue to drag on. The man? None other than the Lakers’ 13-time All-Star, Kobe Bryant.
According to this Q&A between NBPA executive director Billy Hunter and the Los Angeles Times’ Lance Pugmire, Kobe would be willing to lend some of his own money to other NBA players who may be struggling to cope without a paycheck in the NBA lockout. This is a huge deal because it significantly strengthens the players in their ongoing feud with the owners. Not only would Kobe’s money help prevent lower salary guys and high spenders from going bankrupt and caving to a bad deal, but, because Kobe is one of the most recognized stars in the league, his gesture could inspire other veterans with money to lend to do the same thing, ensuring that no players would run into financial problems should the lockout reach into 2012.
Of course, it’s not certain that anyone will take Kobe up on his offer, but here a few things to consider about players’ financial status during the lockout:
While it seems logical that athletes making millions of dollars per year (the average NBA salary last season was just over $5 million) should not be having financial problems, anyone familiar with professional sports knows that this simply isn’t the case. While NBA players go broke for a variety of specific reasons, the general reason is always the same: they make poor decisions with their money.
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Usually this will include spending too much too soon, investing with the wrong people, and/or failing to trim their entourage from back home (and thus supporting too many people). So even though the NBPA started prepping players years ago for a potential lockout, urging them to save their money, you can bet that there are a bunch of guys out there who didn’t listen and are now desperate for a paycheck that might not come.
Those desperate guys (usually lower-tier players living beyond their means) want their paychecks. The only way to get their paychecks is to end the lockout. The only way to end the lockout is to reach an agreement with the owners. And the quickest way to reach an agreement is to start giving in to the owners’ demands. So while guys going bankrupt might be in our best interest as fans in the short term (meaning the lockout ends sooner, and thus we get to watch basketball sooner), if the players want to get a fair deal at the negotiating table, they can’t afford guys going broke and caving in to the owners.
That’s why Kobe’s gesture is so important: it gives the players who made bad financial decisions a safety net, ensuring that the players get what they want at the negotiations. That, coupled with the NBPA’s take of an escrow fund from the NBA (because the league’s 30 teams came in below the 2010-11 salary cap, the league must pay the players $26 million), can in turn be used to support players suffering financial hardship.
While I am unsure which way to lean in the negotiations (compared to other leagues, the NBA players made out like bandits on the last CBA, but I also believe that players should be entitled to more than 50% of revenue because they’re the guys that are out there playing), it is clear that the players will have to relax their standards on some issues in the new CBA, particularly the revenue split. Yet if they have players going bankrupt, the NBPA will have gone from relaxing its standards to eliminating its standards, since Billy Hunter would feel more and more pressure to make a deal with players starved for cash.
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So kudos for now to Bryant and anyone willing to follow his lead in lending money to help his fellow players. It may not be in our best interests now to support such a move (it will only help to extend the lockout), but Bryant’s gesture is huge in securing a fair deal for the player and ensuring the league’s future health.