Sports

NBA Lockout Analysis: Can Players Form a New League?

| by David Berri

Prominent economists have proposed that the players should form their own league. However it wasn’t until Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony picked up the idea that it gained steam. The popular opinion seems to be that this couldn’t work. Stephen A. Smith picked up the torch to explain why the player league couldn’t work in a debate against Skip Bayless.

If the top 20 stars were truly united and they found one dynamo business man who was both scrupulous and wise and could really pull this off then it would have shot.

-Bayless

This idea sounds familiar! I like it! Stephen A Smith was quick to explain why it couldn’t work. He entered with a great interesting line “We’re talking about the league!” which also sounded familiar. . .

Let’s break down his points and why I think they’re only slight less crazy than Allen Iverson.

The NBA has a lot of money, and there’s no way the players could make that on their own

Smith dropped a list of a bunch of talents owed a bunch of money including Amare, Carmelo and Kobe. The first issue is the league has now locked out the players for the second time in 15 years to reduce salary. An important second question is why are the players given these big contracts in the NBA? I’m not opposed to the idea that owners are stupid and don’t know how to spend their money. On the same token the players do attract fans and that makes money. In their current barn storming the NBA stars have attracted lots of attention. Somehow the common question seems to be “Where will the money come from?” and given the level of interest that is just foolish. It’s not as if the thirty current owners of the NBA and David Stern are the only people capable of making money with professional basketball.  And we should emphasize, by their own admission they’re bad at it!

The Players are about what’s right and wrong and if the top stars form their own league it will show them as selfish.

Yes. . . that was Stephen Smith’s point: if the stars come off as greedy it will alienate them from their fan base. It’s a lovely thought to believe that sports stars are pinnacles of virtue and that when they tarnish this image the fans care. Carmelo Anthony selfishly left Denver for New York and the New York fans seemed alright with it. Despite his cruel departure from Cleveland, LeBron James was in the most watched finals of all time. How many times do we have to repeat this? Fans like basketball! Work stoppages and poor behavior by stars do not drive them away! Somehow the mainstream media is trying to convince the players that they need to win some PR battle to win the lockout. The truth is that as long as they play basketball and win that fans will be more than happy to pay for it.

The Players Don’t Have Leverage or Options

If you stay within the confines of these negotiations you have no leverage

-Skip  Bayless

In the summer of 2010 when Boozer, Bosh, James, Nowitzki and Wade were free agents there were crazy rumors. Every team in the league that had a shot at one of these players was gunning for them. GMs wined and dined these players and offered them great promises and contracts. Has that disappeared? The stars in the league still have leverage! If every player that’s in the All-Star game or on an All-NBA team decides to ditch the NBA, do you think the owners and more importantly the fans won’t mind? Smith pointed out that there are over 400 players in the league and many of them don’t have this power. That’s actually the point. The players power does lie in their star power. It’s up to them to realize it.

Summing Up

As with many arguments in sports, a lot of Smith’s came from anecdotes. The evidence says that fans like sports, and that if stars are playing the fans will show up and pay for it. It also says that the current ownership will periodically stop play and ask for more money with little regard for the fans or the players. Would a player league be hard or difficult? Yes! But the evidence certainly says it has a shot. And as David Berri was kind enough to point out

Stephen A. Smith said the player league was a stupid idea. So we have one indication it will work!

-Dre