When the NBA owners under the aegis of commissioner David Stern decided to lock out the players last July 1 at the expiration of the last collective bargaining agreement, the general thinking was that the two sides were arguing over how to divide all revenues.
Last week Stern said his real goal is to create an NBA in which all 30 teams, regardless of market size, will have a chance to win a championship. There’s little doubt that he wants the NBA to adopt the economic model of his football counterpart, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL’s socialist economic framework is based on all teams equally divvying up national television, commercial endorsement and licensing revenue, along with players having non-guaranteed contracts and clubs having the same fixed salary limits.
The NBA is different in many ways from the NFL, however. NBA teams only have 12 players on a roster, compared to the NFL’s 45. The NFL has 16 regular season games while the NBA has 82. Every NBA team has a regional cable network deal to televise games while NFL teams have to rely exclusively on the league’s national network deals.
Stern has been whining about how the vast majority of his team owners are losing money. But Will Leitch wrote a terrific column in last week’s New York magazine in which he questioned the veracity of Stern’s dire claims. He pointed out how nearly every team receives some form of government subsidy (Madison Square Garden has not had to pay any city real estate taxes since 1982, thanks to a deal cut with Mayor Koch) and that when teams are sold they are fetching stratospheric prices resulting in capital gains taxed at low rates.
Knicks reserve forward and NBA Players Association Vice President Roger Mason Jr. did not question the possibility that some teams may actually be in the red when I spoke with him last spring. “When you have 30 companies in a league, it’s very possible some won’t be profitable. We [the players] can’t stop owners from making bad business decisions.”
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony filled up some of his free time by making a promotional appearance for a new product, Power Grip, at the Modell’s in Times Square last Friday. Power Grip is a liquid chalk that quickly dries palm sweat and can certainly aid pool players, bowlers, and of course, basketball players. A company executive pointed out that guys may want to use Power Grip before going on a first date. Carmelo then quipped, “Hey, I may need it before I go on job interviews!”
“The Mighty Macs” which opens in theaters tomorrow, is an upbeat basketball story. Carla Gugino stars as Cathy Rush, who in 1972 led Immaculata, a small women’s Catholic college outside Philadelphia, to the first-ever NCAA women’s basketball championship. Yes, it’s the classic underdog sports story we’ve all seen before. The acting and dialogue, however, are quite good, and given the rather gloomy national mood these days, we need a feel-good film such as this one.