In a few hours, barring any extension the NBA owners will be locking out the players for the first time in 12 years. The last lockout reduced the season to 50 games and cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.
With the national economy in poor shape and money going everywhere but to where it’s most needed, most of the American public will reserve little pity for “pampered athletes” in a League that for the most part issues guaranteed contracts.
And is about 80 percent Black.
Say what you will, but we both know that across America there some people that are really bothered by the potential NBA lockout for reasons that stretch further than this spring’s dynamic playoff basketball.
In times like these the last thing people in America want to hear about is some multi-millionaire going through a work stoppage for more money – Black muliti-millionaires to be more specific. And while the NFL has its share of characters, they’ve received some public sympathy due the recent effects of playing a violent sports while playing with non-guaranteed contracts.
The NBA isn’t that simple.
The locker room of an NBA team is a place to observe. In that tiny space, you have 12-15 separate businesses working at one time - some together, most individually. Each one is looking to maximize on his worth. Egos that were nurtured in AAU Leagues and on college campuses have reached full maturation in the NBA.
The NBA has made an effort to promote everything from a uniform dress code to controlling trash talk via anti-gay PSAs. It all points to “putting these young Black players in their place”. Hell, a player has to do at least one year of college or be 19 years of age before he can enter the NBA Draft.
Thank God for the Euro-League.
There was no thought of a dress code until Allen Iverson purchased every white tee and fitted New Era cap in the Philadelphia area. The anti-gay PSA was born when the face of the league Kobe Bryant referred to referee Bennie Adams as a term that used to mean a “bundle of sticks”, Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah would make the same transgression about a month later to a fan that used derogatory remarks about his mother. The NBA made $150,000 from those two incidents. Ironically, nothing has been done to curb the use of the N-word which in a League of predominantly Black players gets passed around like a spliff on 4/20.
Of the four major sports the NBA is the only League where the perception is that the players call the shots. Coaches get fired for the grip they have on their locker room or the lack thereof. If a coach squeezes too tight he’s not being receptive and if he’s too loose - he has no control.
I have no clue what John Kuester, former coach of the Detroit Pistons, was thinking when he inexplicably sat the team’s leading scorer Rip Hamilton for more than a month. In a game against Philadelphia in late February Hamilton along with several other players skipped the team practice and the game. Kuester had only six players available and was ejected early in the contest much to the delight of Tracy McGrady and other players that could be seen laughing as Kuester made his exit.
The tipping point came last summer when LeBron James’ media production of his “Decision” to join Dwayne Wade in Miami made James the object of hate nationwide. Not only with fans but Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s comments teetered on racism. Part of what the owners want in the CBA is to avoid another “Decision” by removing “sign and trades” along with exemption picks by implementing a “hard salary cap” ($2 billion total for the League).
When you hear people talk about the NBA today they say they can’t get into it because the quality has been reduced to “hotdogging” or “streetball” is commonly used. But while the fundamentals of the game are more absent now than ever before the game is at the height of its popularity.
As far as the general public’s overall feeling about the lockout - I believe that if the NBA went away for a year, only the hardcore fans would suffer. As for the remainder, there would be pats on the back of these owners for standing up to “these players.” And when they say “these players” they don’t mean Dirk Nowitzki, they mean LeBron James, they’re not referring to Steve Nash but rather Kobe Bryant. The NBA is 80% Black, and while David Stern gets kudos for being a worldwide ambassador for the sport - that 80% will take its lumps for everything wrong with the League, character issues aside.
That onus should placed at the feet of the owners.