State of the NBA, 10-22-11

So, the lockout is still going, and it’s looking more and more probable that this season is lost.  Which sucks, more than I’m generally inclined to admit.

The worst part of it—check that, it might not be the worst, I haven’t exactly spent time quantifying all the parts of it that suck and their relatively suckiness—is that there are huge groups on both sides that want it to end and could probably suss out a deal pretty quickly, one that isn’t perfect for either side but would get everyone back to work, playing and earning money.

See, the players have a really, really good deal right now.  It’s not dishonestly good, but there’s not much wrong with it, plenty of benefits that go beyond a strict work-reward equation.  Eddie Curry earns $11 million a year, for chrissake.  And many of the players realize this, and that some of the owners have taken a not-their-fault financial hit due to the economic downturn of the last half decade, and have been willing to make some concessions in order to get everyone back to work.  They’re willing to give back hundreds of millions of dollars a year—billions over the life of the new deal—in order to move past this, as long as it appears that the owners are openly aware and acknowledging of what the players are doing, and are willing to be fair about the whole thing.

And there are owners who desperately want to get back to work as well, who have teams with some of the greatest players to ever suit up at or near their primes—a number of them about to leave their primes and begin the inevitable age-related decline that happens to everyone except Kobe—and deals with local and national television stations worth billions that they’re about to default on, who recognize that there’s more to lose here than just money:  momentum, public acceptance…see, the profit they earn isn’t from the hardcore fans, it’s from the casual fans tossing in an extra eighty bucks for a jersey for their son at Christmas, and buying the latest NBA2K game for PS3, and those types of fans only really pay attention when there’s something right in their face demanding it.  Epic games between great players demand attention; boardroom bickering doesn’t.

But the problem appears to be this:  there’s a group of hard-line owners who don’t actually want a fair resolution to all this.  They want to win.  And what’s worse, they’re viewing this whole thing as a zero-sum game, so the only way for them to win is for the players to lose, and the more the players end up suffering, the more those owners win.  At least to their minds.

Some of that is because they’re not NBA fans, they’re businessmen who thought owning a team would make them money, and with the rest of their economic interests taking such a huge hit over the last few years, they just want to get as much for themselves as they can, to increase the value of their teams as much as possible before trying to sell them in the next few years.

And some of that is because this is a pretty typical 1/99 setup, where—as odd as it is to wrap your head around it—the multi-millionaire players are the 99%.  Because the owners are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, and as with the rest of the 1% in the world right now, see it as their entitled right to continue to make absurd profits on what they do, whatever the actual empirical results of their actions, and the laws of logic and reason are only to be applied to the system in order to guarantee that profit, not in the interest of fairness.

But more than anything, this is a result of a series of events that happened during the last off-season.

See, about a year ago, a certain player—very popular, very good-looking numbers on his stat sheet—found that he was an unrestricted free agent, which means that he could sign with any team he wanted to for any amount he wanted to accept (within the global maximums set up for the league as a whole).  So he set up shop in New York, in a hotel suite that costs more per night than more than half of the population of American makes in a year, and had all the teams that were interested in signing him to a deal come and make their presentations as to why he should accept their offer.

He sat there, on his throne, like…well, like a king, and had these absurdly rich businessmen, these 1%er’s, come and supplicate themselves at his feet.

Only a tiny handful of people knew at the time that he wasn’t seriously considering any of those offers, that a year earlier, at the 2008 Olympics, he’d already made a deal with his good friend Dwayne Wade to join him in Miami, no matter what was offered to him, so like horny, drunk fratboys suddenly in the presence of a supermodel, these 1%er’s came and knelt and kissed his ring and begged, and were dismissed, and ultimately found out that they’d had no chance at all.  They’d been dragged in front of this player, this wannabe king, all for show.

And they vowed—they must have, if I can pretend to have any understanding of human nature at all—at that point, that this sort of thing would never happen again.  That such a blatant display of the players’ power over the owners was the last straw, and they would do whatever it takes—including losing hundreds of millions of dollars of their own fortunes—in order to strike down the players and strip from them any hint of power they once had.

This isn’t a financial negotiation; this is vengeance for public humiliation.

And thus, more proof of just how fucking arrogant and stupid this particular player—and all of those who enabled him—really is.  Because reading a single bit of coherent history, or even just a damn sci-fi/fantasy novel now and again, can teach you pretty quickly that a defeated, humiliated enemy will stop at nothing to get their revenge, trading even their own lives and the lives of countless others to do so.

This “negotiation” isn’t about businessmen and employees trying to work out a new deal, not for these hard-line owners…it resembles nothing else so much as the Gauls on the brink of sacking Rome in retribution for their king being led chained through the streets during Caesar’s Triumph.

So I’m unfortunately not really hopeful we’re going to see games again any time soon, not unless the players buckle and give in, or somehow the Buss’s/Cuban’s/Dolan’s manage to gain control of a large enough voting block to override the hard-liners.

And here’s the tl;dr summary:  the entire lockout is the fault of that ignorant, arrogant fuck named LeBron James; yet another thing to hate him for.

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