NBPA Executive Director plans to fight for more financial leeway for NBA players.
By: Kevin Buckles Jr., Sports Editor
Three years ago, NBA fans endured a 161-day lockout, robbing the season of 16 games. Unfortunately, thanks to the lofty demands and aspirations of newly-hired National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Executive Director Michele Roberts, fans will have no choice but to sit behind the bars of another lockout in 2017, when the NBPA will inevitably opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Since her election in July, Roberts, a prominent attorney, has rebelled against nearly everything that was agreed upon the 2011 CBA. Roberts stirred the labor pot with a hand grenade in an interview with ESPN The Magazine on Nov. 13 — beginning with player contracts.
“I don’t know of any space other than the world of sports where there’s this notion that we will artificially deflate what someone’s able to make, just because,” said Roberts to ESPN The Magazine. “It’s incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.”
The NBA does not have maximum individual contracts “just because.” Since the NBA operates under a salary cap, specifically to ensure competitive balance and equal opportunity league-wide — the complete opposite of being “un-American” —, a maximum contract aids NBA teams from having to potentially spend all of their available money on, perhaps, one superstar player. It also gives a team first priority to re-sign one of their players, along with the ability to offer an extra year of financial security to the contract that another team cannot.
This is all ingrained in the current CBA to assist teams of smaller markets such as New Orleans, Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Milwaukee in retaining their star players from bolting and teaming up with other stars in colossal NBA cities with huge markets like Los Angeles and New York, which is becoming increasingly popular.
There is also no set amount that a player worthy of a max contract can receive either, as it is percentage based. Meaning, if the league’s salary cap increases (as it is in 2016 when the NBA’s new $24 billion TV deals kick in), the percentage of how much money those players earn will skyrocket.
It is not as if these poor players are being cheated out of money. According to Sports Interaction, as recent as 2013, NBA average player salaries are at $5.15 million, and their average career earnings at $24.7 million, both the highest in American professional sports.
The average NBA career earnings is more than what the average National Football League (NFL) player and National Hockey League (NHL) player make in their careers combined ($19.9 million), and every single penny of the money being awarded to them via contract is guaranteed.
The 49-51.2 percent revenue split between NBA players and the owners is also the second-most between players and owners in professional sports (second to the NHL players who agreed to a 50-50 split with their owners), further displaying how the players are not being ‘cheapskated,’ as Roberts implies.
First-year NBA Commissioner Adam Silver contested with Roberts in a statement shortly after her Nov. 13 comments.
“We couldn’t disagree more with those statements,” said Silver. “The NBA’s success is based on the collective efforts and investments of all team owners, the thousands of employees at our teams and arenas, and our extraordinary talented players. No single group could accomplish this on its own. Nor is there anything unusual or “un-American” in a unionized industry to have a collective system for paying employees — in fact, that’s the norm.”
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA champion LeBron James, who is widely considered the best basketball player in the world, shared the third-party sentiments of NBA fans concerning another potential lockout.
“Our game is too good, it’s too popular,” said James. “Everyone loves our game all across the world and we don’t want to get to the point where we have to have another lockout.”