The NBA Lockapocalypse has claimed its first casualties – Commissioner David “Goliath” Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season yesterday – but instead of playing the blame game (Will Leitch has that covered), we’re going to play a classic little game of Show & Tell.
Surely you recall one of the finest moviefilm scenes ever put to reel (most definitely NSFW), where Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper engage in their own brand of last-ditch “negotiations” to avoid someone’s head from being blown off in True Romance. Quickly frustrated by the fruitlessness of discussion, Walken laments that Hopper “don’t wanna show him nothing, but he’s telling him everything.”
And that, my friends, is precisely where things stand between the NBA’s owner and players; they’re playing a children’s game and someone is going to take a bullet or five to the face. Hint: That someone is you, the fan.
So what happens now?
Make no mistake, the owners are following a script that was drafted in secret many years ago, and nothing that has transpired thus far should surprise any of us. Despite incessant talk about fancy sounding acronyms like BRI and MLE, the core issue has always been about control; the players have had it for far too long, and now the owners want it back.
That’s pretty ironic if you think about it. The aforementioned Stern has long been hailed as a visionary genius, but it was his wildly successful business plan that transformed one of the most beautiful team-oriented games into a star-driven spectacle of selfishness and entitlement. Imagine a league driven not by the popularity of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant or LeBron James, but instead by the success of its teams. That kind of league would probably look more like the NHL, which saw its players get absolutely destroyed by the owners during their most recent labor stoppage.
Ultimately, the NBA has become a victim of its own success. Stern’s formula, so vital to the league’s growth, inevitably created a monster neither the Commish, nor his owners, could have anticipated. Honestly, is there anything more disingenuous than owners telling us that a league based on larger-than-life individual stars should not provide those same stars with a majority of the profits?
Yet despite the transparent ploy by ownership to break the NBPA, it’s only a matter of time before the strategy works. It’s inevitable. For every Carmelo Anthony, there are 20 Toney Douglases, guys who cannot afford to weather the no-income storm of a protracted lockout.
Sadly, the players are also not nearly as adept at the public relations game, a skill that Stern and his cronies have long since mastered. How else can we explain the fact that we’re told the league bears over $300 million in annual losses, yet we’re not shown the financial records to back up those claims?
Which brings us back to Walken, who would undoubtedly represent the players more effectively than Billy Hunter. I can almost see it now; Walken offer Stern a Chesterfield, looks him straight in the eye and says “what is of major *#$%@! importance is that I believe you.”
Well guess what, Mr. Commissioner, I don’t believe you, and your reputation has become a cantaloupe.