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#TimeTravelTuesday: Money, Pie, and the NBA

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(This is just an attempt at an extension of the #FlashbackFriday series, really. If that’s not your jam, I suggest you won’t like this either)

Go back to a simpler time… On March 31st, 1982, the NBA Player’s Association reached a deal with the owners that meant, starting with the 1984-85 season, players would receive 53% of the total league revenue. For reference to where that was for the 1980s, the current number in the NBA is exactly 50% (depending on where the team falls within the cap, and luxury taxes paid, it could range from 49% – 51.2%). The NFL just passed its new Collective Bargaining agreement that will increase the player percentage to 47% next fall, and then to 48% from 2021 – 2030. And to do that, they had to agree to play a longer schedule and add more playoff teams.

The unpredicted thing on March 31st, 1982, was just how high that total revenue was going to rise. In part due to the late David Stern, in part due to a rekindling of a Boston vs. Los Angeles rivalry, and in part due to a young rookie by the name of Michael Jordan, the NBA saw revenues take off by the time the deal kicked into action. Stern sought to sell the league on its individuals, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were those individuals on historic franchises in booming markets, and Jordan became the face of all faces in the sports marketing boom of the late 80s and 90s. The 1970s had NBA Finals games on tape delay, late into the night when folks were busy watching Johnny Carson. The newly agreed to revenue sharing came just before Stern’s got the NBA into a new television deal, and the branding took off.

For reference as to how big? The season after this CBA was signed (the 1982-83 season), the entire NBA had a revenue of roughly $118 Million. By 1990? The NBA’s 27 teams brought in a combined $500 Million. In the 2018-19 season? The New Orleans Pelicans had the lowest revenue of any of the now 30 franchises, and they ALONE brought in over $224 Million.

Players’ percentage of revenues, and the rapidly increasing revenues, were central in the 1995 lockout (which was so quick no games were missed) and the 1998 lockout (which was so slow that even an abbreviated season led to 32 games being missed). Since 1998, the NBA has had a variation of salary caps and measures in place to ensure those percentages are met. In 1984-85, the salary cap for an entire team was $3.6 Million (the equivalent of nearly $9 Million in today’s dollars). At Stern’s retirement in 2014, the league average player salary was roughly $4 Million. Growth, growth, and more growth.

But some of those numbers have stopped going up. The pie continued to grow rapidly, exponentially, and seemingly endlessly… but the player percentage of that pie has not. NBA Players receive 50% of revenues, down 3% from 1984-85. But the more stark contrast comes when comparing that 50% to the 57% it was in 2011. In 2005 the NBA reached an agreement (that lasted through the 2011 lockout to increase the percentage of revenues players receive), players negotiated a raise in their cumulative slice of the pie, not a shrinkage.

In simple terms, the 2011 NBA lockout led to players agreeing to take, as a team, a smaller portion of the pie all together while allowing players themselves to get bigger slices. Max contracts went up dramatically, so some players could get bigger pieces themselves, but the overall team player salaries were a smaller chunk of the pie, so their portion was smaller. But that pie was going to get bigger each year, theoretically. Sure, their percentage of the pie was smaller, but some key players were going to get bigger individual slices and if the pie keeps getting bigger, everyone can still win, right?

All of those numbers, and pies, date back to 38 years ago today, when the NBA players agreed to terms that, when looking at percentages, were better than they are now…. The NBA Players in 1982 got a much bigger portion, as a whole, of the much smaller pie. The pie in 1982, for reference, wasn’t even twice as big as the average player’s slice is today. Few could look at the player salaries now, compare them to a 1985 salary, and somehow think they’re “worse off.” The slices may be smaller percentages, but the pie itself is so much larger it might seem moot.

But as the NBA enters the same uncertain economic waters as the rest of the nation, players may wonder why they ever let that percentage trends downwards.

Last fall, the NBA money talk began to see this concern. Well before games were postponed or cancelled, Daryl Morey’s retweeted image in support of Hong Kong sparked controversy. China, one of the largest international markets for the NBA, did not take Morey’s comments lightly, and pulled all of their live TV coverage of the NBA. In January, the estimated loss was nearly $200 Million.

But by the end of July, that $200M may seem insignificant in revenues lost this season.

The NBA is mulling over options to avoid it, but there is a real possibility that the NBA season is done. Sure, they may start playing again July 1st. Sure they may do some abbreviated playoff bracket on cruise ships to seclude the players from the virus. Sure, they may be playing after Labor Day.

But what if they don’t? How much money does that mean is lost? How much does that impact the overall pie?

For reference, in 2019, the NBA Finals alone had a revenue of nearly $300 Million… from just the advertisements.

All of the sudden, that potential 7% difference from 2011 looks a lot different. Even the 3% difference from 1982 to now seems like Mt. Kilimanjaro

38 years ago today, the president of the NBA Players Association was Bob Lanier. Lanier, an eight time all star who played for Detroit and Milwaukee, sought to increase the percentage of money the players received because they, simply put, are the ones playing the games. He really didn’t think it needed to be more complex than that. The business of the NBA wasn’t what it is today. If anything, the players getting just 53% seemed like they may be getting shortchanged.

In 2011, Derek Fisher (as president) negotiated a deal that really increased the ceiling for player earnings, but shrank the overall percentage of the revenues. With revenues rapidly rising, the trade off seemed worth it to some (it should be noted, many players did not like the action, and actually sought to dissolve the union… a much more complex story for a different history lesson).

Revenues were trending up in 2011, and the players settled (after missing months of work and paychecks) to take a smaller percentage of them. The number would never go down… until now. Now it has, and the NBA players may be wondering in a couple of years…

Why didn’t they do what they did in ‘82, and refuse to take a smaller share of the pie?

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Is The Brooklyn Nets’ Offense The New High Powered defense? by Chris Allen

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They say offense wins games and defense wins championships, but there’s a new Brooklyn Nets roster that might change this ancient philosophy in sports. The Nets are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.

I’ve been watching the revitalized Nets with James Harden’s addition in one of the biggest blockbuster trades this season. With the addition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and now Harden, the Brooklyn Nets arguably have three of the top 7 most unguardable players in the league. This causes a nightmare for defenses. After all, you can’t double-team anybody because you’re going to leave another prolific scorer open. Blake Griffin’s addition to the roster will make it challenging for defenses to have a scheme other than one on one. 

With their lineup’s construction, no one would be surprised if they got a bucket on every offensive possession. It must be demoralizing from a defensive standpoint to try to do your best to contest a layup from Irving as he can put your best defender on skates. Or try and put an undersized defender on 7’0 Durant because your bigs don’t have the quickness and agility to stay with him. Last but not least, you have to try not to foul Harden, who recently hacked the officiating rule perfecting his step-back three. 

With the focus on those three, how are the rest of your team not subject to being a poster prop for the year’s dunk with DeAndre Jordan and Griffin. 

From a sport psychology standpoint, you can’t go an entire fourth quarter in a close competitive game when every possession they do some lack of a better term “2K Hall of Fame Shit” without losing your competitive edge. Essentially their offense is so good that it puts pressure on the opposition to defend them on the defensive side and attempt to keep up with them on the offensive side, adding more stress to each player on the opposite team to make a play to stay in the game. This allows the Nets to be essentially mediocre on defense, and if they get a stop or create turnovers, you not only lost possession, but you put the ball back into their hands which is what you don’t want to do late in the 4th quarter. 

At this point, the only thing that can stop the Nets is a COVID protocol or injury. If the Nets stay healthy and work together as a team, it’ll be a tough challenge for anybody in the West, let alone in the East, to take down such an offense of powerhouse. With Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines just inflating the offense, even more, this team is dangerous. 

Irving can drop 40 on any night; Harden can get as many four-point plays as he wants, and Durant receives the green light whenever he touches the ball. Even if they miss their shots, they still have pretty solid rebounders in Nicolas Claxton, Jordan, and Griffin to reset the offense. 

Let’s not forget that they still have one of the best three-point shooters in the league, Joe Harris, waiting on defenders to make a mistake the man almost can’t miss. If the Nets make it to the NBA finals, they could threaten the Los Angeles Lakers’ chances of repeating. Then again, I guess there’s only one way to determine if the offense can win you a championship. 

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Five Players In The NBA That Can Finish Their Careers With Greater On-Court Legacies Than LeBron James by @ReelTPJ

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Five players in the league can finish their careers with more extraordinary court legacies than LeBron James. GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Zion Williamson, Luka Dončić, Ja Morant, and LaMelo Ball. Here’s why:

GOAT for GOAT LeBron can challenge any GOAT from Bill Russell, a pioneer amongst pioneers and leaders amongst leaders. To a GOAT such as Wilt Chamberlain, who stacked the numbers so high, not even James Harden iso’s in a Mike D’Antoni system could catch. To a GOAT such as Michael Jordan, the GOAT OF MY GOATS GOATS. It’s Mike. I’m from Chicago.

Off-the-court legacy, LeBron is tied with Jordan. Jordan is 50+ doing all this. LeBron is still in his 30s. LeBron’s done so much that I think it would be unfair to compare legacies. Michael Jordan is the precursor. So it’s hard to say LeBron can ever be better than him to those that love Mike. LeBron loves Mike.— That futuristic artificial intelligence Virtual Reality game of LeBron vs. MJ will be WILD in 2030.

LeBron’s current challengers, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, can’t catch him. Period. They’re old. They teamed up to beat bro. PLUS health. — Steph is my guy. He’s the only unanimous MVP and probably will be until Zion wins his first ring in 2025.

After Steph, THERE IS nobody good enough heading into their prime to challenge Bron’s legacy ON THE COURT. This era, 2015-2035, will also be the age of technology and the “stat” era. 50 years from now, Bron will be the first of a new generation of GOATS. He’ll be top 5 in every statistical category. Before the True Shooting percentage nerds took over the game, LeBron accumulated a large part of those numbers before the stat era began.

Also, this is the dawn of a new century. Basketball has been around for 130 years at this point. Really in its most proper form since 1970.
So let’s get to why these guys can challenge LeBron’s legacy.

GIANNIS

Giannis is a 2X MVP and a DPOY through 8 seasons in the NBA. His numbers are still on par with last year’s. He continues to shine. BIGGEST QUESTION IS…… CAN HE WIN? I’m not sure. I hope he can. I think Giannis can win 5-7 rings if paired with the right guard. Imagine Ja and GIANNIS! OMG OMG OMG! One can dream, right? Still, Giannis has GOAT potential. He has everything you want in a player; he’s young, built like a horse (I’ve talked to him in person postgame), and he’s building his game out.
He’s a better player than LeBron was at this age. His offensive bag isn’t as big as LeBron, but LeBron isn’t 6’11 and built like Giannis.

ZION WILLIAMSON

ATHLETIC FREAK OF NATURE. LOOK AT THESE STATS OVER THE LAST 9 GAMES!

THIS MAN IS 20 YEARS OLD. This man’s numbers vs. LeBron’s are INSANE! Look at this:

These numbers are insane. Yes, this is an offensive generation, but who’s bodying Zion? Who’s FIGHTING ZION? In what era? WHO?

He made Tristan Thompson look like a child. SMH. And Thompson is a BIG dude who I’ve very rarely seen get abused like that. His play is Shaq-like. Plus, he’s averaging 26 points on 16 shots per game—less than Anthony Edwards. Edwards is averaging 16.8, and Zion’s played 21 games MORE than Anthony. TWENTY-ONE GAMES MORE!

LUKA Dončić

He’s MY SON. LUKKKKKKKKKAAAAAAAAAA! If he can win 3-4 rings, I think he can challenge LeBron’s legacy. He’ll have so many stats behind him. Currently, I think he has to develop his defensive game and learn to shoot and finish games better.

JA MORANT

Ja is the biggest X-Factor in the NBA. BUT he won’t be if he stays with the Memphis Grizzlies. Request a trade and LEAVE JA. LEAVE! No one wants to play for the Grizzlies.

LAMELO BALL

I told all of you, LeBron, and Kobe all in one. He’s only 19 years old! I think he has considerable potential and age for age. It’s a conversation, statistically!

LOOK:

So that’s the list! All legit arguments.

MY BAD: And I know I use to say Ben Simmons could challenge LeBron; he doesn’t have an offensive skillset when it comes to scoring. You have to do everything Bron does plus score to challenge him.

ALL STATS FROM BASKETBALL REFERENCE.

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The Bulls Got Better by Pavy

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Suppose you follow me on Twitter; the war against the Chicago Bulls Twitter is well documented. Yes, I’m from Chicago, but I enjoy being right more than supporting my hometown teams. My main riff started in the Jim Boylen era when Bulls fans told me he was a God-awful coach. My whole point was that even though he wasn’t the best coach, he wasn’t as bad as people think. The talent on the roster just wasn’t up to where it should’ve been, and it didn’t matter who was coaching. That team wasn’t that good.

This season there has been a slight improvement. Primarily because of the play of Zach LaVine. He’s averaging 28.1 points this season, but what is most impressive is his percentages. He’s shooting 52% from the field while shooting 43% from a distance. Hitting the shots that he shoots, which usually have a substantial degree of difficulty, is INSANE efficiency. But then the trade deadline happened, and the Bulls did something that we rarely as an organization see them do. MAKE TRADES.

When I woke up Thursday morning, the group chat was already in shambles. It was at least 20 messages, and I was confused. Then I logged on Twitter to find out Nikola Vučević and Daniel Theis were the Bulls’ newest members. Both players make this team much better than when I laid my head down for some sleep. For one, they have two legitimate All-Stars. Something the Bulls haven’t had since I was 21. For context, I’ll be 30 in less than two months. Also, it shows the team, and most importantly, the fan base, they’re dedicated to winning. No, this move probably won’t put them in the Finals. They still might be a first-round exit, but at least it’s something to be excited about.

It’s been a long road for Bulls fans throughout the Gar Forman and John Paxson era. I honestly believe Derrick Rose getting hurt was the worst thing that could’ve happened, not precisely the roster decision they made. But regardless, it looks like the new regime has a vision, and they aren’t scared to take shots. The Bulls historically don’t trade that often. Especially not mid-season. The most significant mid-season acquisitions I can remember is probably Jalen Rose. All in all, I’m excited about Bulls fans and the city of Chicago to watch actual competitive basketball again.

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