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Here we are, day 96 of this juvenile pity-party we are now affectionately referring to as the NBA lockout. Thanks to the patheticness (yep, made that word up) of what both David Stern and Billy Hunter are mis-labeling as real negotiating, I am stuck penning another lockout update column (despite earlier reports that I would rather jump off the Santa Monica Pier).

This time around, let’s cut the politically correct according to published reports BS and talk about two things, (a) the most important group in the negotiations and (b) the most effected group in the negotiations. They are, in fact, one and the same group.

The fans.

The lockout could be likened to a lot of things (e.g. any number of scenes from Mean Girls), but here’s the easiest way to break it down.

Your cell phone provider calls you and says, “Thanks for being a great customer and paying your bill every month. We can’t decide how we want to use your money to pay our employees, so we’re going to discontinue service until we work it out.”

As if that’s not preposterous enough, here’s where the implicit arrogance of the NBA trickles into the conversation:

“And as soon as we work it out, we fully expect you to continue spending your money for our service as if we didn’t completely disconnect you for an extended amount of time.”

Is there any company on earth that would even consider temporarily discontinuing their product (basketball) – which is where 100% of their revenue comes from – so they can figure out how said revenue will be distributed?  Imagine that staff meeting…

Owners: I’m not making enough money.
Players: No, I’m not making enough money!
CEO: That’s it! Let’s stop making and selling our product.
Voice of Reason: But isn’t that where all this money we’re arguing about comes from?
Owners: So.
Voice of Reason: So, if we stop selling our product, where’s the money going to come from? …
Voice of Reason: And if we stop selling our product, what are our customers even paying for?
Owners: But I’m not making enough money!
Players: No, I’m not making enough money!
CEO: Done! We’re going to argue about imaginary money from unhappy customers for a product we’re discontinuing. Perfect solution!

And that, ladies and gentleman, is a snapshot of the NBA lockout. What these NBA executives (on both sides) are clearly overlooking is how their only paying customers are going to react to such an idiotic business decision.

As a quick reminder to the League, we, the fans, provide the NBA with approximately 100% of their revenue. Every week of the season, we spend our time watching ten 20-something millionaires we’ve never met take a round, orange ball and try to put it in a cylinder more times than their opponent… then, after the game (or games), we watch some guy named Chuck, who looks like a round, orange ball, disjointedly tell us why one team wasn’t able to get the ball in the cylinder more than the other team.

Many of us have mastered the ability of evading work in favor of browsing blogs (like this one) and managing our imaginary teams. When pay day comes around, we drop our hard earned money on overpriced arena food, even more overpriced tickets, and most overpriced of all, official NBA merchandise (as if a mesh jersey is reasonably priced at $250+).

The NBA thrives on addicted customers who have integrated basketball into every area of their life (like most of us). If we miss games this season (we will), that will be the NBA sending every one of us to rehab, forcing us to detox from our addiction and face the world without the NBA. How many of us will relapse when if they work out a new CBA in the near future? That remains to be seen, but I can guarantee it won’t be anywhere near the 100% return rate they are counting on.

In just a few months, the fans have gone from I can’t wait for NBA basketball, to I’m so angry about this lockout, to I just don’t effing care anymore. It’s essentially the basic stages of any breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend you’ve ever had. You go from caring too much, to absurd levels of anger, to complete indifference. No matter how it went down, you eventually get over it and move on.

And that is exactly what’s at stake for the NBA – the fans moving on, realizing that basketball is entertainment, and there are a whole lot of entertainment substitutes out there. I love the NBA, but if this lockout carries on without any resolution in sight, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a phone call and a quick apology from the NBA to repair this relationship. Something tells me I’m not the only one who feels like this.

The clock is ticking…

  • GeorgiaLakerfan

    Excellent article!!! I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. As a lifelong Laker fan who lives in the Atlanta area, I spend good money on the NBA League Pass (specifically for the Lakers) and attend the Lakers/Hawks game practically every year. However, I have no problem cancelling both those costs because I am so tired of spoiled millionaires on both sides emphasizing their self absorbed, selfish agendas at the expense of the hard working non wealthy fans. In an economy that reflects 20% REAL unemployment and a 15.1% poverty rate, people have much greater concerns than whether LEBRON, KOBE, or DWADE are able to continue to make obscene amounts of money for playing a sport. Same goes for the Buss family, Mark Cuban and other owners who continue to cry about losing money but still are way more fortunate than the average American. I don’t admonish those who have become wealthy, but you didn’t do it alone and the NBA would be nothing without its fans…. Go ahead NBA and its players, continue with your arrogant stance regarding these negotiations. You’ll soon find out how the NBA was before the Bird/Magic era,,,,a dying league on the verge of extinction……

    Sincerely,

    Lifelong Laker Fan…..

  • Shareef_davis

    Great Read as always Riley. That stated the problem with our analogy is according to Forbes 17 of the 30 teams lost money last year. So more than half the owners are better off financially not having a season.

    Last season was one of the best NBA seasons ever from an interest standpoint and the owners depending on who’s math you trust lost between 90 – 300 million. That means in their best years from a product standpoint they lost money. The NBA financial structure has to be addressed.

    Truth is all us addicts will be back when they get it together ( I know both of us will Riley). What I really need to know is what can supplement my high while they figure it out.

  • HÜLYA

    I can’t understand this owners?Where or who from they make all the money.Where?Of course from player and the fans,so owners stop acting like morons be wise and sensible.

  • Anonymous

    Players where making 57% of the money in the last agreement and owners wanted to make it 50/50. Players offered 53% which is in between what the owners wanted and players are making. That sounds like a compromise on both sides(mind u this is more then 100 mil) also raise the cap penalty by 20%  and thats another 30/40 mil if not more.  What are they talking about for hours and hours?   then they come out and tell the media this was a meeting for tmrw and we will tell you what happened tmrw. The next day after 7 hours all they have to say is nothing happened? wtf? do u think the fans are stupid? they better get it together and sign a deal or they will lose 30% of their fan base then it wont matter who’s getting what % of what.
    1st grade math 50% of 0 is 0.

    Great article!
    Go Lakers! 
    @GeorgiaLakerfan :  Agree with u except, Buss and Cuban are not the one’s complaining, they make great money, its the small market teams. Its basically everyone but the Lakers/Bulls/Heat/Mavs/Celtics/Knicks/Spurs

  • xtro

    NBA: NO BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION. Bunch of greedy selfish people with no sympathy to the fans paying for the expensive tickets. 

  • RUBEN BRETON

     MR. RILEY,
    YOU’RE RIGHT.I AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT EVERYTHING.
    THEY  ARE SELFISH AND  GREEDY.
    WE ARE WHO PAY PLAYERS SALARIES AND OWENERS EARNINGS.
    RUBEN

    • HÜLYA

      My opinion is, the Greedy and Selfish is OWNERS, How they makeing a big money,who play for them?Ok fans say we paying they salaries,wrong you dont pay for players you pay for OWNERS,then they pay the players,and thats all about what the players trying tell ppl,bcuz they dont get pay what they should have.i am watch in time to time poker chanel and i see every 2 or 3 days of the week JERRY BUSS his playing POKER guess who’s money, your money fans money, if he have money to play POKER he must have money pay the players to.now who is GREEDY AND SELFİSH PPL? (Btw i am a proud Lakers fan)

  • Anonymous

    who cares about the fans. owners care about the fans more then players. owner think of ways to get more money out of fans. they always thinking about the fans. players just pick up a check. As long as Millionaires care about sitting in front rows spending hundreds of dollars for a regular game. the average fan don’t mean squat to players or owners. fans are fanatics. in other words, where there is a game, there will be fans no matter what. whatever there are losing now will mean nothing when they win later.