There are several reasons why the NBPA is not like other unions. There are two main reasons, however, that virtually guarantees that they will lose out in every CBA negotiation that gets hammered out between now and the Star Trek future in which money no longer exists. First and foremost, they are an incredibly small union, with roughly 400 members. There are no chapters, either. So when the 400 or so NBPA members decide to stand up for their interests, there is no one else to stand with them. When they strike, there will be no solidarity outside of their membership. No other Union leader would be in their right mind to help stand up for millionaires, when their own thousandaires are struggling to maintain their own benefits and pay. Secondly, the members of the NBPA are not good at saving money. By all accounts, they are awful at it. Sure, there are a few smart guys mixed in there (according to Neal Brennan, one half of the genius behind Chappelle Show, Blake Griffin lives in a modest apartment and doesn’t waste money as a rule). But then again, there are always these types of members too. The Johnson’s outnumber the Griffins. Just do a google search for former NBA players that owe taxes. If they were all Blake Griffins, the players would not only not sweat a lockout, they would be able to strike for more concessions if they wanted to (of course, the negative PR would be prohibitive). The point is the Union is weak.
So the question this off season is not “who will win this round of CBA negotiations?” The question is, “how badly will the players lose?” The billionaire owners have two luxuries at their disposal. First, they’re insanely wealthy. Whatever money they lose from their NBA franchises won’t match what they stand to gain from a new CBA that heavily favors them. And they’re capable of taking a much bigger hit than the players. They have lasting power. Secondly, nobody cares about who owns an NBA team. They are essentially faceless. It’s much easier to put blame and scorn on the players that are recognized, than owners whose names we don’t even know. There is also the stupid notion that all owners are hard workers who have earned their station in life, while players are spoiled children who make millions for playing a game. Nevermind there’s much fewer NBA level players in the entire planet than there are billionares. How many, you ask? Over 1,000 billionaires according to varying sources. That’s an over two-to-one ratio of potential owners to actual players. It’s harder to become an NBA player than a billionaire.
So that is where the players stand. They cannot defeat the owners in negotiation, and they will bear the brunt of public resentment for any games missed during the season by the fans. They are negotiating to lessen their losses, and that is the only thing they can accomplish.
So how long with players fight for scraps? I imagine, they will foolishly fight on into the season. I say foolishly, not because they do not have the right, or do not deserve as much as they can get from the owners. I say so because the only thing that the players can truly rely on at this point to cut their losses is revenue. The current CBA, and likely the next one, offers players a percentage of revenue as their collective salary pool. It’s a sweet deal for players (even going from 57% to 52%) because it’s money off the top. Gross, not net. As you can see here, it’s plenty of money, especially if it continues to grow as it did last season.
Revenue grew last season for mainly two reasons. Firstly, everyone wanted to see what happened with the Miami Heat. And as long as those three stars remain in Miami, they will want to see what happens. Secondly, people are extremely excited about new stars like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Blake Griffin, to name a few. The interest is sure fire, unless there were to be missed games. That would sour hardcore fans, the sports media, and perhaps most importantly, the casual fans that tuned in last season in droves. Historically, sports have had abysmal seasons following lost or partially lost seasons. A shortened or lost season would kill the only hopes players have of making back some of the money they will lose via the new CBA.
In the end, 400 plus workers will have to split revenue with 30 plus owners. That cannot be avoided. Never mind the inequality of it, those are the facts. The only thing players can do is get the season started on time, and build on the momentum of last year. The question is, how much of that money will they lose while they stubbornly fight over scraps through the CBA?