Lessons that the NBA should learn from past lockout losses

This past week has seen both sides of the NBA lockout go into overdrive trying to get a deal done before the league loses even more games. So far, the lockout has led to the first two weeks of the season being cancelled; a total of 100 games that will not be played.

However, those of us who continue to sit in a holding pattern waiting to hear news (positive or negative), have to be happy that this past week saw the two sides meet several days in a row, and in spells of long sessions (upwards of 16 hours straight at times).

As the players, owners, and their representatives continue their ongoing discussions and mediation, they should not have to look further back than the past 10-15 years to give them all the incentive they need to get this lockout lifted.

Effects of recent lockouts

Most recently, the NFL suffered a 130-day lockout that put their season in jeopardy. However, as most people know, the season wasn’t lost and all was right in the universe. The only game cancelled for the NFL was its annual Hall of Fame exhibition game, which is more for show than anything else anyways.

Flash back to 2004 and we’ll find the last time a US pro sports league lost games due to a work stoppage. The entire NHL season would be the casualty while players and owners argued over an implementation of a salary cap.

The effects of that lost season are still being felt as it cost the league, including it’s teams, owners, and players, to lose millions of dollars in revenue. Perhaps more importantly though was the loss of many disgruntled fans of the game. The league is still trying to bring back the casual fan despite their current upwards trend in the US sports markets.

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The NBA itself lost games in the 1998-99 season when they were forced to reduce their game schedule from 82 to 50 games per team. 204 days passed before the players and owners were able to come to agreements on the league salary cap and the minimum salary fir individual players.

The real villain from that lockout and the current may still be at large and in charge.

Once thought as one of the best commissioners in all of US professional sports history, David Stern is now overseeing his 4th lockout since he became the big boss in 1984.

Though the other two lockouts (one in 1995 and in 1996) during his tenure didn’t result in loss of games, they cannot go un-ignored in terms of setting the stage for the current lockout. Many opposed to Stern question if the “commish” uses lockouts as a tool to get what he and owners want rather than as a last resort.

Who loses what if the lockout goes on?

The heart of the problem in this lockout hinges on owners wanting the players to take a cut in their share of league revenue. The last deal set it to where the players were at a 57% share of the league revenue.

With the owners looking to take that number down, the first loser would be the players.

The owners themselves don’t stand to lose much if they can eventually get a deal done. They have seen this before and are counting on the short-term losses from the lockout to not outweigh long-term damage.

Pun intended, the ball is in their court and they now control the game.

Next up are the TV markets, which mainly consist of ESPN and TNT, the two big fish in the NBA television markets. Though they will lose some money in terms of advertising and commercial money, they actually will be reimbursed for a lockout season.

They receive minimal damage and can focus on other areas (college basketball anyone?) to make their money.

This leaves the loyal fans that will continue to have to sit and twiddle their thumbs, as they become the innocent bystanders. Though past NBA lockouts have not led to as much an exodus of fans as the 2004 NHL lockout, there will be many upset fans. If more of the season is lost or cancelled entirely, its effect on fans won’t be known until after a final decision is handed down.

Either way, the fans lose faith in the league and will have no shortage of groups to point our finger at and blame. Let’s face it, it’s all we can do at this point because there is no basketball to watch.