NEW YORK — If you were betting against the NBA lockout occurring, get ready to pay up. The NBA and Players Union have failed to reach an agreement on a new CBA and the Owners have locked the players out.
But now that it has happened, the question besides when will it end becomes what will be the damage report when all is said and done? Could this lockout really mean the end of the NBA as we know it?
The answer to that question is actually yes. But probably not in the grim way a lot of people are predicting. The chances the NBA goes the way of the NHL and nearly crumbles under its own weight is highly unlikely. But don’t expect an immediate bounce back like the NFL will most likely see.
Despite being probably the second most known American sport in the world, the NBA still has a sort of niche audience in the states. That’s not to say it’s more popular in Europe ala hockey or football (that’s right I don’t call it soccer), but the NBA doesn’t have the kind of weight it wants to throw around in terms of fan appreciation.
Proof of this is the fact the NBA Owners and the players union are arguing on the opposite scales that the NFL and NFLPA are. Where NFL players are trying to get a larger slice of the enormously lucrative and wealthy cake the Owners have, NBA owners are pinching pennies to stay afloat which is a much larger and crucial issue than holding out for more money.
A fact that will be repeated ad nauseum during the NBA lockout is that 17 of the 30 teams finished in the red after the 2010-11 season. What more proof do you need that fans aren’t pouring out in droves like they would to an NFL game.
Further proof that this lockout could prove to be crippling is the fact the NBA has just now gotten back on it’s feet. After the retirement of Micheal Jordan in 1998, the league went without a real superstar and therefore without any real backbone. Unlike baseball and even football, professional basketball in America doesn’t have the type of historical backdrop to sell.
Baseball doesn’t need a superstar, it creates one for a week when some guy no one had ever heard of before gets to 30 consecutive hits and is officially recognized by the world over as chasing Joe DiMaggio’s record. Andre Either did it and if your not an avid MLB fan or a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, chances are you hadn’t heard of him before but because that historical backdrop was there, he made it to the top story on SportsCenter when he failed to get a hit in a game.
Basketball has history in terms of the playoffs, but other than that you have these almost unreachable benchmarks set that no one will touch. In baseball, it is possible even in today’s style of game to have a no-name player overtake Joe DiMaggio’s record, or break Roger Maris’ single season homerun record. In the NBA who is realistically going to score 100 points in a single game? It’s hard to even get a triple-double with today’s style of flow.
Basketball has it’s superstars it created, but without them playing no one really cares. And only so much time can go by before people move on from the LeBron Jameses and Derrick Roses of the world and find themselves hard pressed to go back.
Maybe it’s the number of games they play in a season, or the fact only four teams seem to be in the true running for a championship every year, but the NBA doesn’t have the fan base to survive a lockout that cuts into the season. If this thing can get resolved by September or even October, basketball will be fine. But of games start to get peeled off the calender then more than just those 17 teams will be in the red.
Final proof that the NBA can’t survive a lockout that kills games is the 1994 MLB strike. It took a plasticized, juiced up homerun fest in the summer of 1998 to revive the league. Baseball almost died from fans losing their games and that’s a sport WITH the historical backdrop to lean on. The fans aren’t as stupid or as timid as these players and owners seem to think.
The bottom line and motivating factor for both sides to get a deal done should be: lose the games and you lose the fans and they aren’t something that can be negotiated back.