It’s Always Been About The Fans

The NBA lockout has been an interesting ride, to say the least. But even bad things must come to an end. Hopefully, today’s players union meeting scheduled in New York will be the catapult to end the lockout.

With both sides still at an impasse, the entire month of November has been stripped off its games. That means we just missed opening night on Tuesday against Kevin Durant‘s Oklahoma City Thunder and an inter-divisional matchup against the Golden State Warriors and their new coach Mark Jackson last night.

That Lakers-Thunder game could’ve been one heckuva game. A perfect primer for the new season. But the real excitement there is finally seeing the Lakers on the court since that forgettable playoff run last season and watching them under Mike Brown‘s system.

But instead, we’re stuck with the Kardashian-Humphries divorce as the hottest NBA-related news.

To put it another perspective, a friend of mine drives through downtown L.A. on the way home from work. On opening night, he decided to get off the freeway (which is really not a hard decision considering the 110 is a parking lot during rush hour) and took a video of Staples Center as he drove north of Figueroa.

Let me tell you, it was eerie not seeing wave after wave of fans garbed in purple and gold cross 12th, 11th and Olympic at this time of the year. Figueroa was bustling as usual alright, but it was empty at the same time.

The Lakers are the top dog when it comes to sports in Los Angeles. In fact, they’re practically the heart and soul of this great city. The one organization people can count on to bring them some amazing sights and something to talk about at work the next day.

That’s not happening right now. And it’s wrong.

When the 1998-99 lockout ended, the NBA lost a good amount of followings. Fans took interests somewhere else and treated the NBA like an alternate sporting event. The retirement of Michael Jordan didn’t help the league either. You might say that the end of the Chicago Bulls dynasty meant the end of something good to watch in the NBA.

Yeah, 3 years of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant continued to show more and more promise for the NBA. But, the interest didn’t start coming back until 2001 when the Lakers faced Allen Iverson‘s Philadephia 76ers in the Finals. People just couldn’t stop talking about that Kobe-A.I. matchup.

But for the NBA to even begin to thank the Lakers and their dynamic duo for keeping itself afloat post-Jordan era, it’s the loyal fans, like my friend, who stuck around after the 1998 lockout who deserve the recognition and respect from both the owners and the players. Without them, the NBA could very well be in a darker place right now.

So instead of hearing and reading about the owners and players arguing about the BRI, there would be a concentrated effort from both sides to market the league in every corner of the planet. There would be endless commercials, ads, public service announcements, movie/TV cameos and/or albums by NBA superstars, NBA Cares promos, charity events and so forth.

But just like a lot of things, the NBA has forgotten about those fans. While I really don’t expect any of these small market owners to know the history of the NBA and fully comprehend its symbiotic relationship with the fans, I place the responsibility of putting the game, the league and, especially, the fans above everything else to the players. Afterall, they’re the ones who fans pay to watch play basketball. Or in a bit of a cynical term, the ones who get fattened by the fans.

They know it, but they are grossly misguided to think that they can use that as a form of leverage in their negotiations. The owners simply do not care about anything, whether it’s true or not, other than lining their own pockets with more of everything they already have plenty of.

The fans may be the cash cows, but they don’t run the NBA nor sign the checks of the players.

This is why there’s never been a strike because the players will never do anything voluntarily that can threaten their very livelihood no matter how much they’re getting paid. This is also the reason why it’s ridiculous for the players to think that their millions can take on the billions of the owners.

Yeah, the owners will take a hit as more games are canceled or even if they tank the entire season. But we’re talking about some temporary annoyance for the owners versus the very blood and oxygen of the players. Who do you think stands a better chance of “holding out”?

We can all sit and argue about who’s right or wrong, but that’s not going to make things any better. Like the lockout, it’s way passed arguments and drawing lines in the sand.

Games are being missed. Fans are furious. That’s all the players and owners need to worry about. But, the players are dragging this whole thing out for no good reason at all.

I understand why the players are fighting. I really do. But, I don’t see the point of seeing more games canceled and more money slip away for the $100 million gap in their disagreement with the owners to split the $4 billion in revenue. For one, what exactly are they getting even if they win that war? Second, it’s not in the owners’ best interest to learn from their mistakes. Last (and again), the players HAVE NO LEVERAGE!

Remember, the NBA loses about $200 million per 2 weeks of the season getting canceled. With the entire month of November now gone, that’s already $400 million down the drain. You don’t have to be a Math guru to figure out what’s wrong with that picture, but especially when 95% of the new CBA has already been put to bed.

Since day one, the players have been promoting their so-called concerns for the fans and all of the little people who are greatly affected by the lockout. Like the owners, they have yet to step up for the sake of the fans.

There won’t be a better time than now.